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  • Oct 26, 2014
  • Updated: 12:36pm
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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

johnyuan
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.
dienw
..... I suspect he has a plot of land in a country park which his wife wants to sell to her brother.....
HK-Explorer
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.
Dai Muff
Somehow he does not seem to grasp the concept of a country park.I think the golf courses for the rich should go before the country parks, which are for everybody. Besides the problem is not as much the lack of housing as the lack of affordable housing. Try controlling the greedy speculators in living space first.
HK-Explorer
Yes, Golf courses should be gone prior to country parks. Golf courses provide no financial benefit for Hong Kong and provide no benefit for 99.9% of people in HK.
They also do not help the environment at all. It is just short grass with allot of pesticides and allot of GAS / Water to keep them in top shape. They are not environmental like country parks with trees which help clean the air.
dascaldasf
Turn the golf courses into car parks. Would benefit most.
mymak
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.
fsk999
If this Sacred Cow is ever slaughtered or even slightly injured the Hong Kong we know and love will gradually become more and more like other Chinese cities. Maybe that is the idea. However, if he blogged this yesterday during his Sunday off, maybe he was suffering from too much of Henry's throw-away basement wine...
HK-Lover
Since Hong Kong has such limited space we should also look at the reason we need more and more housing. One that comes to mind is the the daily quota allowing mainlanders to settle in HK. Adjusting the quota to a much lower limit would release a lot of pressure on the housing situation.
scmpcoolguy
HK Lover - Reducing the daily quota of 150 mainlanders allowed to settle in HK is a real taboo subject in the eyes of the Central Govt. Even CY Leung said openly this is a taboo and no HK govt would dare to touch it. This daily quota of 150 was installed in the early 80s after the "four modernisation" policies put forward by Deng was adopted. It is a measure to ensure HK will have 54,750 new immigrants per year so as to allow China to catch up the difference in living standards between HK and the mainland (with the ultimate objective to achieve economic equality between the two sides 50 years later in 2047). It is also en effective measure in the minds of the central govt that HK will continue to be populated by pro-China thinking and inhibit the pro-British or worse still pro-independence thinking of the locally born and bred population. With the latest colonial flag waving and a pro-independence camp thriving among HKs post 80s & 90s population, honestly it's hard to see the central govt putting a damper on the daily quota

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