• Fri
  • Sep 19, 2014
  • Updated: 11:34pm
NewsHong Kong

Building in Lantau country parks a green option, Franklin Lam says

Former Exco man Franklin Lam, an adviser to the government on Lantau's future, says developing protected areas could be green

PUBLISHED : Monday, 10 February, 2014, 4:38am
UPDATED : Monday, 10 February, 2014, 4:38am

Outspoken former Executive Council member Franklin Lam Fan-keung has reignited the row over the future of country parks by suggesting those on Lantau could be ripe for development.

Five months after development minister Paul Chan Mo-po stoked controversy by floating the idea of allowing development in country parks, Lam risked a new outcry by suggesting building in Lantau's two parks would improve the environment.

Lam, a government appointee to the Lantau Development Advisory Committee, said the potential existed to upgrade the environment "millions of times" over by building homes for 300,000 people and creating jobs, reducing residents' carbon footprint by cutting their commute.

Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying set up the committee after touting an "East Lantau Metropolis" on an artificial island as a new commercial hub in his policy address last month.

Lam questioned whether the country parks that make up 69 per cent of the island's 146 square kilometres should continue to be a no-go area for developers, and whether they really were a "back yard" for the public as advocates claim. Figures show that 1.84 million people visited the north and south Lantau parks in 2012.

"Not many Hongkongers went to the country parks on Lantau before [the airport] development began, since the mountains are really high," Lam said, adding the island's marine environment was of greater value than its land, where there were "not even many trees". "So I won't judge [environmental protection] by its impact on one or two patches of grassland," said Lam.

Lam said Lantau had the potential to transform from an "ugly duckling" to a "white swan", with further development at Tung Chung transforming it from the city's "little toe" to the "centre of the Pearl River Delta" when the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau bridge opens in 2016.

The sacrifices necessary for development "may not be as painful as imagined", he added.

Lam quit Exco last year despite being cleared by graft-busters of using inside information to sell two flats before new property taxes were introduced.

Exco member Bernard Chan, chairman of the Council for Sustainable Development, said he was not against country park development as long as it did not affect "major parts" of the parks.

But Democratic Party lawmaker and Lantau commission member Wu Chi-wai said developing any country park would set a "very bad precedent". "Hongkongers chose to preserve these two large areas of pristine mountains as the city's back garden," said Wu.


For unlimited access to:

SCMP.com SCMP Tablet Edition SCMP Mobile Edition 10-year news archive



This article is now closed to comments

Well, HK needs to stop building shoe boxes and pretend it is fit for human living ... I am fine with developing some parts of country parts if it goes towards more sustainable living conditions for HK residents ... not to build boxes for those that just horde the space without staying or leasing them. It is such a waste and property developers are the worst offenders
Lam, you could start by examining the huge piece of land that is the private playground of some VIPs in Lantau - the golf course atop Discovery Bay.
It is time the govt took back such pieces of land for the common people to use.
Mr Lam shows that he is disqualified to advise on Lantau affairs when he describes Lantau as an Ugly Duckling needing to be improved, and disparages 'one or two patches of grassland'. He and Mr Chan show willful ignorance of environmental and human values in the interests of more profit from property development, just more immoral greed and growth addiction, a further crime against future generations.
Mr. Lam and Mr. Paul Chan, here is a suggestion. Why don't the government take back one of the 2 race courses or maybe both and but low costs housing on them? There are no environmental issues, and you solve the social gambling issues at the same time?
Ah yes, Mr. P Chan is a JC member, and he may have a conflict of interest.
Somebody should lock these idiots up in a sub-divided flat or, even better, a cage home, for a week and then then might realise how valuable the country parks are for getting the hell out into fresh air and natural surroundings and relieving stress. Long ago, the government allowed developers to build on country park land and what did we get? Low cost housing for the needy? No. Park View.
Franklin has probably already earmarked the area where wants these flats to be built to maximise his speculative gains. All the areas they talk about for building flats are most likely for luxury housing not the mass market.
Lam claims remote new towns will shorten commutes but that is exactly what the new towns in Shatin etc disproved: people will continue to work in the main commercial areas on HK Island and the Kowloon peninsula. Govt is still dealing with the commute congestion resulting from the utopian ideal that new towns can be self sufficient. Lam's agenda is nothing more than another example of govt-business collusion.
I would add this flies directly in the face of govt.'s policy of developing East Kowloon into CBD2 with millions of square meters of office space. Build workplaces in East Kowloon and residential on Lantau? Madness.


SCMP.com Account