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  • Sep 17, 2014
  • Updated: 3:08pm
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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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9 Sep 2013
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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

sipsip1238
How is he still in the Government and not been forced to resign!?
dktatlow
Without the country parks Hong Kong will be like any other mainland Chinese city -- ugly, a grey wasteland, overwhelming polluted with little escape for residents. People's connection to nature will break off even more, damaging their humanity. The parks are Hong Kong's lung, its heart, they are what keeps families living in the city. Don't cut them up.
daily
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...............
wjohnw
When will Hong Kong Learn?
The Country Parks are for all HongKongers, they are a jewel that cannot be weighed, a porcelain vase that cannot be copied...
It is an abhorent idea to suggest they we utilised for accomodation, Paul cHan Mo-Po has revealed himself as part of the insipid process to resensitise Hong Kong people to an idea that benefits developers only, by providing cheap to build on land, and maximising profitablitity while stealing the gift of space, of out doors and of nature from Hong kong as a whole.
In stead of spending multi billions of dollars on a bridge to Zuhai, perhaps we could use that money to build a urban plan for the territory that utilised internal connections to outlying islands, bridges and tunnels to artificial islands off of the current 3 major land masses?
We certainly have the technology and knowhow, it might cost more, but in the long run we could all look around and see that we did not sit ideally by and watch the place get bulldosed.
Create instead of destroy...
Create instead of destroy.
.
boondeiyan
If the majority of HK people want to pave over the country parks then let it be done.
.
Problem is, we have no conclusive means of knowing what the majority of HK people want on this or any issue. One of the slight drawbacks in an authoritarian system of government.
Byebye
To build flats in the country parks is a bad idea. Hong Kong is already a very built up city, and country parks should be retained for the enjoyable of ALL the people. There are still other land available. What happened to the Fanning Golf Club proposal, or land in New Territories, Laudau or other islands and those near China borders?
the sun also rises
of course this Chan Mo-po or his family can never own any part of our country parks which are government property ! Yet once he is found to own any part of it, he will be closely monitored and subsequently challenged by his 'fans' in the territory ! Anyway, to turn part of our country parks into building lodgings for the low-income groups may be a good idea indeed since it is easier than looking for any vacant land in the urban areas !
darehk
check first to be sure neither he nor his family, including the bankrupt ones, do not own any country parks
impala
Sure, the topic should be open for debate. Some Country Parks only exist for the sake of the freshwater reservoirs they contain. There was a time when relations with the mainland were not reliable, and those reservoirs were vital for Hong Kong's water management.

Those days are long gone though, and it is not unreasonable to discuss whether such reservoirs and the surrounding Country Parks should remain untouched forever and always.

Yet, you cannot help but get the impression that Mr Chan is bringing this up out of sheer cowardice to face the vested interests that oppose his other land development options. Why don't we first address the small house policy, which is clearly wrong-headed and unsustainable? And what about that Fanling Golf Course? What about some real urban renewal in places like To Kwa Wan, Sham Shui Po or elsewhere? Or why are we wasting huge amounts on space on an unnecessary giant sports stadium at Kai Tak? How about some (tax) policies that would discourage landlords from letting apartments sit empty? How about something similar to incentivise the property developers to develop (and bring to market!) the dozens if not hundreds of plots sitting in their land banks?

Why does our government have no coherent vision on land policy, and worse: why does it seem to want to avoid any hard decisions or more complicated policies that might change the status quo just a tiny bit? Instead, they choose the path of least resistance. Frustrating.
honkiepanky
I think you may be letting the perfect be the enemy of the good here. Kai Tak, the Fanling Golf course, and urban redevelopment put together are not going to provide enough housing to significantly put a dent in housing prices (let alone average flat sizes). Most of the land allocated for small house building is scattered and not suitable for large scale development anyway.

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