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  • Sep 20, 2014
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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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This article is now closed to comments

There is no single silver bullet solution, sure. But the Fanling golf course is 170 hectares and could become home to over 30,000 flats. Cancelling the Kai Tak Sports Complex would provide space for another 35,000 flats (in addition to the 35,000 already planned there in the current blueprint). So there we have 100,000 flats we could start on tomorrow.

That leaves space for 370,000 to be found. Where are we on the 3,000 flats that were going to be built in the old Lamma Quarry? Oh, and how about instead of this third runway nonsense, we speed up the Tung Chung East project (38,000 flats)?

Sure, none of it is a panacea, but I am just so tired of this government showing no comprehensive vision whatsoever and avoiding to touch anything that might upset the status quo, while we have hundreds of thousands of people being unable to afford decent housing, people living in cage homes, people living in unsafe, tiny, subdivided flats, people not being able to afford having kids due to no space etc, while the property developers and other vested interest groups are laughing all the way to the bank. And make no mistake: that is purely the result of at least half a decade of complete and utter failure of the government to have a proper land supply and planning policy.
Would it really be so terrible if, say, 30% of HK's land were devoted to country parks rather than 70%? Is keeping such a high percentage worth continuing to squeeze everyone into itty-bitty flats? I say build baby, build.
I don't disagree with yout, but please note that what really drives the itty-bitty flats is the government's density requirements for residential zoned land. Without reforming those policies, no amount of new (Country Park) land is going to lead to more spacious flats.
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?
it used to be 150 per day / about 55,000 a year
not sure if that changed
In the 15-year period 1997-2012, some 750,000 formerly mainland residents settled permanently in Hong Kong.

The vast majority of these come in through the one-way permit scheme, which is currently maxed-out with a waiting list of many years. The quota of the scheme is set at 150 entries per day. That's 4,500 per month, or about 55,000 mainland immigrants per year.

To put it into perspective: that is about the same as the natural growth rate of the HK population, which has around 80~100k births and 40~50k deaths in a year (net natural growth: 40~50k per year). So basically, we are allowing as many mainland immigrants in as we have (net) babies being born.
Hong Kong’s birth rate is considered to be low. It is being kept low because couples refrain from forming family in adverse living conditions in Hong Kong. Yet, with the 150 mainlanders daily settling in Hong Kong, we are doubling the birthrate of that natural response by the sensible people in Hong Kong.
With 150 new comers daily and assuming only a third would require immediate household formation, we are talking of building two 30-story residential towers in every Districts EVERY YEAR. More if back logs are considered. Yes in your backyard non-stop.
A naive and silly game has played out long enough. CY Leung please take care of it.
Once the country parks are gone, what next? We need a sustainable land policy. Stop the influx from the mainland, cancel the obscene small house policy and then look at using some of the idle military land. Of course, none of this will happen because vested interests have more power then the ordinary people.
CY's Election Manifesto 2012:
Natural environment conservation:
12. We will refine the conservation and development of our country parks, extend coastal parks by phases, and develop other kinds of reserves to expand the ecological capacity of
Hong Kong.
13. We will take steps to protect outstanding natural scenery as one of our nature conservation objectives, identify places of high scenic value in the territory and adopt appropriate
protective measures.
14. We will review the integrated social values of the agricultural industry in Hong Kong from the perspective of ecological landscape and 'Green Hong Kong' and set up an interdepartmental working group to formulate policies to promote and support new-age multifunctional agricultural activities on land suitable for agriculture.
"Refine" does not mean building flats inside Country Parks Mr Chan.




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