My Take
PUBLISHED : Friday, 18 January, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 18 January, 2013, 5:53am

A Mid-Levels idea that's not worth developing

BIO

Alex Lo is a senior writer at the South China Morning Post. He writes editorials and the daily “My Take” column on page 2. He also edits the weekly science and technology page in Sunday Morning Post.
 

Dear CY,

I am writing as a concerned citizen. But first, let me congratulate you on your maiden policy speech. You read for two hours without a slip and didn't even need to take a single sip of water, and all the while the likes of Long Hair were blowing up balloons and performing other theatrics. This annual marathon has always been an endurance test for chief executives and, previously, colonial governors. You passed with flying colours.

I generally approve the direction you want to take Hong Kong but there is one key proposal which caught my eye - lifting restrictions on property development in Pok Fu Lam and Mid-Levels. I can accept more development in Pok Fu Lam, where I live. It's a pleasant, low-density area but I am willing to do my duty for the greater good so you can build more affordable flats.

But Mid-Levels? All I can say is: HAVE YOU GONE CRAZY?

I used to live there but moved to my current place to get away from all the dust and noise, the traffic jams and the constant danger of trucks speeding down steep slopes and loading and unloading at myriad construction sites there.

It's a rich hunting ground for the big boys like Henderson Land, Swire Properties and Cheung Kong, which have at least eight projects in Mid-Levels West. At least 17 sites have either newly completed projects or projects under construction, or have been partially acquired by developers.

Many of the roads in the neighbourhood are one-way and long ago reached capacity.

If your plan goes ahead, developers will just speed up redeveloping old buildings, disturbing neighbours and creating more "luxury" flats at HK$20,000-plus per sq ft, not housing for the grass roots and families buying their first home. You say 47 of the 420 plots of land in Mid-Levels may be developed if restrictions are lifted. Tell us where they are.

Because the Town Planning Board imposed height restrictions in Mid-Levels in early 2008 to make redevelopment projects less lucrative, developers rushed in 2007 to get approval to build skyscrapers on sites they did not fully own. That partly contributed to today's boom in the area.

Please stop the insanity before it goes any further.

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