Urban planning

Housing focus moves to West Kowloon arts hub

Claims there is 'plenty of room' at West Kowloon site raises fears of it being dominated by homes

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 24 October, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 22 September, 2015, 4:52pm

The debate over increasing the city's supply of residential space has shifted from the sports hub planned for Kai Tak to the arts hub in West Kowloon. A legislators and a housing adviser said yesterday that the cultural district had plenty of room for more housing.

The idea was quickly dismissed by the arts community and others, who fear the site will be overshadowed by real estate.

In a radio programme, Ma Fung-kwok, the Legco representative for the sports, performing arts, culture and publication sector, said officials should add more housing space to West Kowloon to save the sports complex at Kai Tak.

He pointed to the overall plot ratio of 1.81 for the arts hub. "It's totally a luxury to have such a low plot ratio. I have said in the board many times that there should be a review, but my voice was suppressed," said Ma, who sits on the board of the West Kowloon Cultural District Authority.

The authority has reserved 20 per cent of the 42-hectare arts hub for residential use, emphasising it would not be dominated by real estate.

The present land use plan, approved by the Town Planning Board, was devised after officials were forced to scrap a plan in 2006 that would have given far more weight to residential property.

A plot ratio defines the total floor area of buildings permitted to be erected on a site. It is calculated by dividing the net floor area of all buildings on the site by the net site area.

Ma's comment came a day after the sports community threatened to take to the streets if the sports hub - in planning for a decade for Kai Tak - were relocated.

A move to Lantau Island has been mooted by government sources and supported by advisers such as Michael Choi Ngai-min. Choi, a member of the Long Term Housing Strategy Steering Committee, said on the same show he agreed that more homes could be built at the arts hub.

He also suggested that the sports complex be trimmed by half, if the sports sector did not accept a wholesale removal.

A second alternative, he said, was to cut the planned open space, which takes up 100 hectares, almost one-third of Kai Tak, which planners envisage as a high-quality living space.

While the city has some 250,000 empty private flats, there is a shortage of good-quality affordable housing, prompting calls for more to be built.

Chow Chun-fai, an award-winning painter who leads a group of artists that use factory buildings, opposed the idea of raising residential density in the arts hub. "Any extra housing would probably be sold as private luxury homes. I don't believe it will benefit the public," he said.

Mathias Woo Yan-wai, of theatre company Zuni Icosahedron, said he would support only public housing at the arts hub.

The president of the Institute of Urban Design, Bernard Lim Wan-fung, said revision of densities was acceptable but officials had failed to justify their ad hoc approach with comprehensive data on land supply.