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  • Jul 11, 2014
  • Updated: 12:36pm
NewsHong Kong

Development secretary Paul Chan floats idea of building flats in country parks

As city sets 10-year housing target amid acute land shortage, minister says the possibility of developing park spaces should be discussed

PUBLISHED : Monday, 09 September, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 09 September, 2013, 3:59pm


  • Yes: 17%
  • No: 83%
9 Sep 2013
  • Yes
  • No
Total number of votes recorded: 711

The development minister has floated the idea of building flats on land in country parks, questioning whether such a controversial option was "untouchable and unmentionable".

The remarks by Paul Chan Mo-po are a radical departure from Leung Chun-ying's pledge when he was running for election as chief executive that country parks "should be protected from development as far as possible", a vow he shared in an interview with the South China Morning Post almost two years ago.

Laws stipulate that country parks are designated for the purposes of nature conservation, countryside recreation and outdoor education.

Chan's suggestion came after the committee devising a long-term housing strategy for Hong Kong last week unveiled a proposal to build 470,000 flats in the next 10 years, a target criticised as unattainable given the limited land supply.

Chan wrote on his blog yesterday that society should discuss and explore the possibility of developing country parks - an idea he said had recently been raised in various seminars - as more land would be needed to reach the housing target.

"During the exchange, someone mentioned that 70 per cent of Hong Kong's land is country parks, [and] in face of a shortage of land supply and a big housing demand ... can they not be developed at all?

"The development of country parks was seen as a restricted area, if not a taboo. Is it still completely untouchable and unmentionable today?" Chan asked.

Giving an example, he said some people believed development on Lantau, which is mostly country park, should not be limited to the island's north.

Criticising Chan's remarks, environmental activist Roy Tam Hoi-pong, of campaign group Green Sense, said the government should instead review immigration schemes aimed at attracting mainlanders, otherwise an influx of hundreds of thousands of people in the coming decade would make housing demands unbearable.

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Meanwhile, the secretary for transport and housing, Professor Anthony Cheung Bing-leung, said building more flats had to take priority over increasing their size, although housing capacity and quality were mentioned in the committee's proposal.

"If you can't even increase the quantity, how do you increase [flat] areas?" Cheung said on TVB Jade's On the Record.

However, he hoped that the Housing Authority would consider building bigger public flats in more remote areas, conceding that Hong Kong fell behind some less developed countries in terms of living space per capita.

Lau Ping-cheung, Leung's housing adviser and a member of the committee, suggested vacant industrial buildings be turned into interim housing for people waiting for public flats.

Fellow committee member Fred Li Wah-ming said old public flats to be vacated for redevelopment should be converted into interim housing for the 230,000 applicants in the queue.


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WHAT IF .....
What if restricted new environmental friendly developments are required to:
- provide more green areas than that taken up by building sites, roads & supporting facilities
- provide green roofs, multi-storey sky gardens, green covered walls, walkways & car-parking
- provide energy capture or recapture systems to power communal facilities
- provide near zero or low emission holistic living environments
- have residents agree to certain standards of 'green code' community living
Such developments would be expensive to develop & take time to implement, however, such experiments should be explored in full by the Government to resolve the present & future housing requirements of Hong Kong.
When conventional solutions fail, it's time to think outside of the box. In the case of future housing in Hong Kong, technology is the key!
WHAT IF... What you are saying amounts to the equivalent of what had happened in Rain Forests in Brazil will be happening to HK. Would you be satisfied with something that is man-made and not natural to the environment? Can you not image the difference between green rooftops and countryside. Can you see yourself or your children/grand children going up to walks on rooftops? You have only considered giving up on nature for just buildings. There are, of course, pipes, sewage, population, vehicles etc. What the government 'promise' today will be empty words tomorrow. Look around you. When the government only plays an 'advisory' role, no one listens, i.e. the cross harbour tunnels, transportation companies and electric companies. One cannot live on promises after it's gone!
Appreciate your views.
The housing situation in HK is acute, local & historical.
The city was never planned for the current & growing population.
The city functions, however, behind the scenes, people are packed in concrete boxes. Some may say: "At the very least, they have roofs on top of their heads." In reality, it's extremely difficulty for those below the 'safety net' to find half decent accommodation in HK. For HK to lay claims as Asia's World City, that's absolutely pitiful.
There is already a two-tier housing system in HK, the private sector (For the privileged) and public sector (For the less privileged). The problem lies with the public sector housing programs. There is gross imbalance between supply and demand - much more is needed and preferably soon. The less privileged has no access to half (or 1/4, 1/8, 1/16, 1/20) decent accommodation. For the less privileged, space is their sanctuary. For them, any space will do, green space, built space, air space, so long as it's their own adequate space to satisfy their basic needs. Until the basic hierarchy of needs are satisfied, it's difficult for people to move forward.
HK has its set of unique problems, it's up the capable and far-sighted individuals of the Government or philanthropic groups to resolve.
As I mentioned previously, technology is the key, however, people are the drivers.
I don't like that HK grants so many one-way permits. I don't like the fact that we waste land on things like golf courses and the High Speed Rail Terminus to nowhere. I don't like greedy landlords and developers. I don't like Paul Chan.
But Hong Kong's housing situation will never improve if HKers reflexively oppose every proposal made by the government. We need to look at the situation rationally. Hong Kong allocates 7% of its land mass to residential housing and 70% to country parks. By giving up just 10% of the country parks, we could in principle double the living space of every single person in HK. How on Earth can anyone say such a tradeoff is not worthwhile?
Bad idea. Once you let them start, the developers will never stop.
Bad idea. Once you let them start, the developers, government and speculators will never stop. It's all business.
Dai Muff
Because we won't double the living space. It'll just increase the profit base for some people and the poor will still be living in subdivided apartments.
I am with you on your first paragraph but the idea of 10% country parks give-away do not work. Have you not heard of the saying: give an inch and a yard is taken? You can work out on the percentages to that. (You might not know this but developers move into sensitive areas with bulldozers and trucks clearing vegetation, trees, shrubs before they submit applications to the Town Planning Board for road widening and surveying. This malpractice has to stop.)
@Stagger: that doesn't make any sense. If the housing stock doubles, and the population stays roughly stable, please explain how you do _not_ increase the average housing area per person? Plus if you think that way, you must oppose any new housing development whatsoever!
@dascaldasf: If at some point HK has too much housing and too little country park, then we should oppose further development at that point. But it's silly to oppose new development now on that basis. I don't see the slippery slope.
Dai Muff
"Plus if you think that way, you must oppose any new housing development whatsoever!" No I don't. But the problem is not that there are no flats. The problem is that there are expensive flats and flats that are being speculated on and many properties empty. The primary issue is price, not availability, but we have a CE who seems to think the very idea of rent control, for example, is the spawn of the devil. Taking the country parks should be the last resort. Not the first.




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