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  • Updated: 2:18am
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HOUSING

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
 

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  • Yes: 17%
  • No: 83%
9 Sep 2013
  • Yes
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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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This article is now closed to comments

honkiepanky
"the primary issue is price, not availability" -- wrong, there is a serious problem of availability. Hong Kong has the least housing area per person of any developed economy. We have lower quality and far more expensive housing than many developing countries. Speculators make easy scapegoats but speculation wouldn't be so attractive if the government could be relied upon to expand housing supply to meet the aspirations of the populace.
Rent control is opposed for a good reason -- it is extremely distortionary and inequitable over the long term. I suggest you look at the situation in cities such as New York and San Francisco, where the rents paid by neighbors in identical apartments sometimes differ by a factor of 5.
honger
Idle land in country parks in Lantau vs cage homes/subdivided flats/crowded families crammed into 400 ft pigeon holes/a lifetime locked into mortgage/etc...
I suggest developing parts of Lantau, especially the area around Disco Bay and the golf course The past govt deemed it fit to let a private developer build up huge areas in the immediate vicinity to the now ruined Peng Chau and the old monastery/dairy farm - not to mention cordoning off a huge section of previous hiking trails - for private use.
Why don't they build public housing around the idle land (country parks) surrounding this private fiefdom since the original country park in this area is already desecrated?
The transport network is up and ready - both rail and road. Since this part is nearer to the city, it will be more popular than the areas developed in Tung Chung.
Only on Lantau though, Hong Kong Island and Kowloon/New Territories should be left intact. If we do our Math, these areas with country parks yields only a low ratio. Only if you add Lantau do you get the 70 percent touted.
But of course the particular property co. has got their man(woman) in Exco to prevent this. In the end, country parks and the remaining historic villages and trails in the Kowloon/NT areas will be targeted...
Even if they do decide to build around Disco Bay, it will again be luxury units aimed at foreigners or the wealthy.
I hope I will be proved wrong.
dascaldasf
Is Paul Chan serious about this? Does he know anything about biodiversity and nature conservation? To talk about this in his 'blog' - that society should discuss and explore the possibility of developing country parks - an idea he said had recently been raised in various seminars'. Whose idea? His or developers? Even if an ordinary man might have suggested it, does it merit Paul Chan to put it in his blog? Someone's idea can influence him to use it? It is not obvious that Paul Chan should find alternatives before turning to the ideas of others? Is he out of touch with the law on this subject? Does he still have land close to country parks? What credibility does he still have ... anymore?
Dai Muff
He says ""The development of country parks was seen as a restricted area, if not a taboo. Is it still completely untouchable and unmentionable today?" Yes. That is what "taboo" means. And there is your consensus. Why mention ignoring a taboo, defining your own "consensus" to suit yourself, while all the time this government says it wants a harmonious Hong Kong? "Harmony" is not achieved by doing what you want and then forcing the people to agree. But this government has a problem understanding this.
hardhang
Mr Chan's a visionary ,,,, in need of his glasses ,,,, thick ones at that ...
sklailee
Let's be fair. Preserving 70% of HK's land as country park,countryside when we top the whole world in house prices? Environmentalists and conservationists are vocal but they only represent themselves, a small minority in the population.
I agree to the suggestion of restrcting people form the mainland from grabbing houses in HK, but this restriction must not be made a pre-requisite before country parks can be developed.
HK will be a good place to live in even if only 40% of our land is country park.
chuchu59
Its not merely homes that we need. If it were then the Government ought proposing people live in subdivided flats. As an international city, other than just cramped homes we must spare a thought for the quality of the living environment. CY had mentioned many times before that there is adequate supply of land. Get the inspectors out and check on which flats are vacant for an unreasonably long period and stop landlords hoarding them. This applies to developers as well. Then hink of imposing 'vacant flat' taxes on greedy landlords. Supply of flats for rent or sale should rise and bring prices down.
Dai Muff
We top the world in prices because of speculation and lack of rent controls. Not space. There is a flat next to me that has been empty for eight years while people go homeless. Curb the greed, not the parks.
haloboy
Not only the prices but also the densitY. There are so many people live in the developed area, I don't think make them denser can solve the problem.
sydmel
What do Hong Kong people really want? Conservation or destruction in the name of "development"? Especially when such development is to accomodate unlimited migrants from mainland China, I will say No! No! No!

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