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  • Dec 20, 2014
  • Updated: 4:37pm
NewsHong Kong
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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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
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.
HK-Explorer
Further to the indigenous-multi-story-housing-policy that should replace the small house policy (for those eligible already born) the government should stipulate the only building layout to remove any unknown answers and also to ensure no one takes advantage of this (i.e. by adding 4 story car parks, large balconies etc..).
They should say this is the exact 10 story building you are allowed to build and must meet this specification (similar to how the government builds government towers).
Anyone builder who does not follow this process would be banned from building anymore of these indigenous buildings.
Hollander323
Chan is burdened with the responsibility to provide housing for HK people, he has the duty to generate options for land as much as possible. Now that the options have almost been exhausted, and that all are objected by some camps or some interest groups including mainly political groups. Mr Chan should know what to do now, that is, either to do nothing, or to just pick any one which has the least resistance and at the same time can generate the highest benefit for the HK people. The collusion allegation tactics have been used too many times, so much so that it just sound like a joke.
johnyuan
I know that, jve and that's why I looked at the number in another perspective. Thank you for those numbers to make my comment convinently possible.
honkiepanky
@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.
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.
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.
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?
hard times !
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 !

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