• Fri
  • Dec 19, 2014
  • Updated: 6:09pm
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.

View Larger Map

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.


For unlimited access to:

SCMP.com SCMP Tablet Edition SCMP Mobile Edition 10-year news archive



This article is now closed to comments

How many mainlanders are allowed to move to Hong Kong each month? I keep on hearing this being mentioned but what is the extent that this has on Hong Kong?
First of all, Patrick Lau of past HKU Architecture School Dean and decade ago announced that country parks should be developed while he was a legislator. I am sure he was speaking on behalf of the vested interest group which he represented.
With more than 70% of land classified as country parks, it seems there are rooms for some development. However, it can be done so only if it is absolutely a necessity when every other means has exhausted:
1. Daily influx of mainlanders to settle in Hong Kong under the family reunion policy must be halted. Tell me how many country parks must be destroyed to accommodate the potential of such infinite vast population from the north?
2. A property tax should be put in place to halt the property culture for good.
Developing country parks is a sin/crime if Hong Kong government just wallows into it for business as usual. Remember, it is just plain shamelessly greed and dishonesty in the open in chopping down those trees in the parks.
The Government is constantly challenged by its own ineptitude, incompetence and lack of vision as to what type of city we all want to live in.
On July 1, 1997 all free property rights regarding indigenous villagers should have been abolished. In fact a better time would have been somewhere in the mid-80s when it became apparent that Hong Kong was an economic success and NT people were not then trying to leave in droves, as in previous decades.
We don't need more roads. Look at the amount of space and money burnt by an ever increasing road network. For GS why did the Gov't not look at Eurotunnel and think when they were approving the Macau bridge? This bridge will only put more pressure on urban land requirements in Hong Kong.
For places in the countryside, you don't need to build on country parks, e.g. Mui Wo Secondary School - abandoned for the last five years - use it or rebuild on it. Close to buses and ferries, no new roads needed. I am sure readers in other areas know of many more sites available for housing than digging up a forest or field, building new roads, etc.
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!
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, government and speculators will never stop. It's all business.
How is he still in the Government and not been forced to resign!?
He is simply trying to digress the HK citizen's minds from his other wrongdoings and criminal acts.............give it up Paul Chan...............your career is toast once the investigations on you are out in the open...............
Of course she would have sold it 4 months ago when her husband first told her his plans. Be real.
Once we the people of Hong Kong hear about it the news has already been handed to all the wealthy people so they can change their strategy before the masses get to know what will happen.
I would have triple-liked this suggestion if the system allowed me to do so. Killing several birds with one stone. Freeing more land for housing purposes, easing tensions between the haves and have-nots as well as saving face for the Government. You should get an award from the Government for this.



SCMP.com Account