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  • Aug 30, 2014
  • Updated: 1:34am
NewsHong Kong

Country parks not currently needed for flats: planning chief

Planning chief says, based on development patterns, other options can be considered first such as rural land and conservation areas

PUBLISHED : Monday, 16 September, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 16 September, 2013, 5:39pm

There is no immediate need to use country park land for residential flats, the planning chief said in a statement that was a departure from the development minister's call for wider discussion of the contentious issue.

In a forum on sustainable development yesterday, Planning Director Ling Kar-kan stressed that country parks were important to the city. "At this stage, there is no need to bring development into country parks," he said. "They are an important part of Hong Kong's ecosystem."

Ling's remarks came a week after Development Secretary Paul Chan Mo-po - who oversees the planning department - blogged that Hongkongers should discuss if country parks should be used to build flats.

Chan has since been backed by Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying and his housing advisers. Country parks occupy 40 per cent of Hong Kong land.

But the suggestion shocked environmentalists. Former Observatory director Lam Chiu-ying, who helped Leung formulate the environmental policies in his election manifesto, has likened it to "a cancer cell".

Chan's controversial blog post came after an official committee on long-term housing strategy unveiled a 10-year plan to build 470,000 flats. The target was seen as unattainable given the city's limited land supply.

Asked if there would come a point when country parks had to make way for flats, Ling said there were many alternatives to creating housing supply. These included developing land in Tung Chung and the northeastern New Territories.

He said Hong Kong's development followed a density pattern, decreasing outward from the city centre towards the new towns, followed by "transitional zones" including rural land and nature conservation areas, and then country parks.

Current developments focused on such transitional areas because of their proximity to developed areas and the lower costs involved in developing infrastructure there, he said.

But Leung's housing advisers on the committee defended Chan's suggestion. Lau Ping-cheung said the size of country parks could be discussed because their designation did not involve "absolute science".

"The concept of country park planning … involves a certain level of subjectivity and is a matter of judgment. So how large or small their sizes are - whether they should be expanded or reduced - is nothing absolute," he said.

Commenting on environmentalists' proposals, Lau questioned whether Hong Kong, as an international metropolis, should remove a golf course for residential purposes.

Fellow committee member Michael Choi Ngai-min said that while country parks could be considered at a later stage after other available options like vacant farmland and the green belt had been exhausted, the recent debate reflected a need for a balance between conservation and residential construction.

"The government's biggest problem is whatever it puts up for consultation ... opposing voices say it will affect the environment in varying degrees," he said.

Another member, Andy Kwan Cheuk-chiu, said he floated the idea of developing country parks a year ago.

Asked how he could prevent too many parks from being developed, he said :"If the government is strong enough to say … we are going to use only about two per cent of it, then that's fine."


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This article is now closed to comments

Well, the good news is that we -apparently- have a Planning Director.

His predecessors were obviously completely incompetent, both in terms of quantity of planning done (not nearly enough housing), and quality (unless anybody thinks Hong Kong is becoming a more beautiful city of late...).

I suppose we must give this new gentleman a chance since he was only appointed last year. Although you would have hoped that he would be a little bit more proactive by now in finding land for those 470,000 flats, instead of entering the discussion as an afterthought and solely to react to other people's ideas. Please Mr Ling, get cracking.
The irony is that Country Parks are right NOW being systematically destroyed by applications for huge numbers of 'indigenous villagers' houses, driven by the greed of the Heung Yee **** and its developer friends, and all approved by a compliant Town Planning Board which pays no attention to established planning criteria or environmental considerations and brushes aside the most valid objections.
The Government's reluctance to tackle the abuses and corruption surrounding the "small house" policy demonstrates it has abdicated the responsibility to govern. Why don't C. Y. Leung and his pals just face reality and be honest enough to allow the Heung Yee **** thugs to declare the NT an independent dictatorship?
One has to wonder why the government is sitting on its hands. Is it because it thinks it will have its hands full with Occupy Central? If so, why not cancel the SHP now and give the HKP a dress rehearsal practicing on the Heung Yee **** and NT triads? I am sure they would love it.
I think 80% of the populace agree with IRDHK that the SHP should be scrapped before it does any more damage to country parks and the rural NT.
John Adams
Correction : 95% not 80%
If we want universal suffrage for our next CE, why should we also not have universal suffrage for how we handle our land policy ? After all, the land is ours
If there was a binding referendum one-man-one-vote today on whether to scrap the SHP it would sweep through with a huge majority.
Do you dare to try that Paul Chan ?
Could you imagine what would be said in UK, US, Can, Aus if the government looked up people who's relatives were in those countries 50 years ago and said "hey you get free prime land 20 minutes from the city center because your relative lived here 80 years ago". You can build houses there and make US $1 mil profit by selling it on the open market. There would be riots in the street.
These people in HK are Chinese natively. They are not discriminated against. They are not denied opportunities. It is not helping a underprivileged class get out of poverty. This is wealthy families stealing from the government.
remember a couple of years ago the government gave each person in HK HK$6,000 and everyone said it was stupid. The indigenous housing policy is $7 mil. Think of how many people getting $6,000 to reach $7 mil.
Then think about grandfather gets it. Then his 2 sons get it and then think each of them have 2 sons. That is 7 people each getting $7 mil which adds up to a 1 lineage taking HK $49 million from the people of HK without doing any work. That makes these indigenous people amongst the wealthiest groups in the world.
The people living in subdivided houses in HK are some of the poorest.
All depends on where your grandfathers / great grandfathers lived 50 years ago.
IRDHK - how do we press the government to address the SHP? can there be a judicial review? can someone living in subdivided housing sue the govn't for discrimination? can a female indigenous villager sue the govn't for sexual discrimination under this policy? there must be a way to at least elevate the debate and discussion of this issue. ironically, i don't see much discussion of this issue in local chinese press. thoughts please!?!?
Both areas of conservation and country Parks should never be touched.
The government for some reason has no appetite for touching the "indigenous small house policy".
Why is this? I see no reason why government officials are so scared to take on a policy that has 0 merit and is the direct cause of much of the housing issue in Hong Kong.
No areas for development should even be discussed until this stupid policy is removed.
The 98% percent of Hong Kong people who were not lucky enough to be born to certain parents and thus do not get this what amounts to Hong Kong 7 million payout by the government on their 18th birthday should be pushing that this be stopped. The government is meant to be fair to all. This solely amounts to corruption and using vast amount of government resources to favour the few lucky ones.
John Adams
I fully agree.
One can understand that the indigenous NT population originally played an important role in Hong Kong's development pre-war and in the few years after the war until the huge waves of immigration from China began in the early 50's, but ever since then it's the immigrants who have made HK what it is today.
Scrap the SHP immediately and force-buy all vacant / un-used farmland at fair market price using our massive fiscal reserves.
Then and ONLY then think what else to do to find more land for the future


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