DEVELOPMENT
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Leung Chun-ying

Move jails to make way for housing, architects say

Institutes back government's vision but say it's a mistake to get rid of community spaces - and suggest four facilities be vacated instead

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 30 January, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 30 January, 2013, 4:45am

Architects have proposed moving two jails, the police training school and a barracks and using the land to build flats instead of rezoning community sites, as the government has suggested.

Their idea is part of a rare joint statement issued by six professional institutes yesterday, commenting on the chief executive's maiden policy address.

The institutes, covering architects, planners, engineers and surveyors, said they supported Leung Chun-ying's land and housing visions but warned that delivering on those ideas would require extra efforts by government departments.

The architects suggested that the Wong Chuk Hang police training school, Kowloon East Barracks in Kowloon Tong and the Pik Uk and Stanley prisons should be moved further out so as to vacate more sites for flats. They did not say where the facilities should be moved to.

"We float this proposal because we want the government to think twice about substituting GIC [government, institution or community] sites with flats," Institute of Urban Design vice-president Vincent Ng Wing-shun said. "We are very concerned about that."

GIC sites are land used for community and educational purposes, including open space.

The jails at Pik Uk and Stanley cover four hectares and 35 hectares, respectively - the latter comparable to the size of the West Kowloon arts hub site - while the police school and the barracks take up 18 and 10 hectares. Ng said it was illogical to raise the population in some districts by increasing the number of flats while taking away their community facilities and open space.

"The number of these facilities should be in proportion to the population," he said.

Many of the GIC sites offered people living in densely populated areas a place to go, a ventilation expert said earlier.

Institute of Architects spokesman Dominic Lam Kwong-ki said the jails and training school were originally in suburbs that had become part of the urban area. "The government should better utilise sites closer to urban areas instead of picking GIC sites in a piecemeal approach," he said.

The Correctional Services Department said it always reviewed and explored possible and practical redevelopment projects and improvement works. The police had not responded last night.

Engineers, surveyors and landscape architects all said they expected a shortage of labour and professionals in their fields in the face of the government's pressing land and housing programmes.

But Lam said a lack of co-ordination among government departments and the prolonged approval process involving at least five departments would be stumbling blocks. The institutes urged the government to streamline the process with a one-stop approval system.