Residents call on city to bury hearse problem

Panel drafting plans to revive ageing parts of Kowloon City District says funeral homes and car repair shops among big issues in the area

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 01 May, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 01 May, 2013, 5:47am

The constant presence of hearses from nearby funeral homes and noise from car repair shops are two major concerns for residents that emerged from a public consultation on redevelopment of the Kowloon City District.

The concerns were factored into a series of revitalisation proposals for the area compiled by the District Urban Renewal Forum, a government-appointed panel of academics and urban planning professionals convened to promote bottom-up, district-based planning.

The proposals were released for public comment yesterday and are expected to be submitted to the government later this year.

Kowloon City District is the first pilot area to be tackled by the forum, which was set up under the New Urban Renewal Strategy in 2011 with the goal of drafting redevelopment master plans with minimal public opposition.

Apart from rundown housing blocks, the forum said the district's residential areas were riddled with incompatible businesses, including nearly 70 funeral homes in Hung Hom and about 230 car repair workshops in the "Thirteen Streets" section of To Kwa Wan.

"The proposals are put together according to residents' views and demands from industries [in the area]. They are the people's plan," said Gregory Wong Chak-yan, the forum's chairman and the former vice-chairman of the Town Planning Board.

Wong said the proposals were revised in response to the feedback from the first round of public consultation in the third quarter of last year as well as the findings of a social impact assessment.

The revised options call on the government to provide a designated parking area for hearses, given that two-thirds of the city's funeral homes are located in Hung Hom.

Wong said one possible location for the parking area was a work site on loan to the MTR for the construction of the Sha Tin-Central rail link.

The site is due to be returned to the government by 2018.

Wong also said the Planning Department had agreed to oppose licences for more funeral homes in Hung Hom to limit the impact on residents of air pollution from the 100 or so hearses based in the area.

"The hearses used to park in public car parks, which were sold for residential developments," district councillor Pius Yum Kwok-tung said.

"Now the vans are parked in public streets, where residents encounter them every day.

"Many private car parks have declined to offer them parking space to avoid annoying other tenants."

The forum also suggested identifying government land in Kwai Chung or Tsuen Wan to build a multi-storey car repair centre to house car repair workshops now operating in residential sections of To Kwa Wan.

Henry Cheung, owner of Claudi Auto Service, welcomed the forum's proposal.

But he said he was worried that he would not be able to afford to lease workshop space in the future.

"I don't mind moving farther away as it's difficult to find a place suitable for running a workshop now," Cheung said.

Priority redevelopment areas have also been extended to cover old residential blocks - close to a future MTR station and a public transport interchange - in San Wai Street and Winslow Street.

The original priority sites were the Thirteen Streets and "Five Streets" areas along Ma Tau Kok Road.