Plans to boost Yuen Long population by a quarter prompts congestion fears

Blueprint envisages boosting area's population by almost a quarter in nine years; but local councillors fear infrastructure will not cope

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 30 April, 2014, 4:18am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 30 April, 2014, 4:47am

A blueprint to boost Yuen Long's population by almost a quarter in nine years was met with concern from district councillors who fear it will exacerbate congestion.

The plan envisions the town as home to 710,000 residents by 2023, with government officers optimistic that expanded infrastructure and amenities can support a population of that size.

A major thrust of the proposed developments is the provision of about 42,000 new flats - more than 60 per cent of which will be public housing - on 14 sites earmarked for rezoning into residential use.

These sites include farmland, green belts and railway land.

Most members of the Yuen Long district council, to which various government bodies presented the blueprint yesterday, expressed concern about overcrowding and traffic congestion.

Independent councillor Daniel Cham Ka-hung said the government had set too high a maximum plot ratio, of eight, in one of the new development areas, Hung Shui Kiu.

"The development density is too high," Cham said. "In the planning, they should consider not just quantity but also the quality of the town."

A Planning Department officer maintained that future facilities would be able to cope with the needs of the expanded town.

"The planned population for Yuen Long is 871,000," Lau Wing-seung, district planning officer for Tuen Mun and Yuen Long West, said.

"Therefore, we believe the planned transport infrastructure, community facilities and open space will have sufficient capacity to meet the increased demands brought by population growth in the next 10 years."

The figure of 871,000 is projected for an unspecified year, encompassing Kam Tin South-Pat Heung, Hung Shui Kiu, Wang Chau and Yuen Long South - all of which fall under the blueprint.

The rezoned sites, together with the new Kam Tin South-Pat Heung development area that is due to welcome its first residents in 2022, will add 131,000 to the population of the whole of Yuen Long by 2023, from the present 579,000 to 710,000.

That is a rise of at least 23 per cent, as the forecast does not take into account more prospective residents in Kam Tin North and Nam Sang Wai, now under study.

"Even before the Kam Tin development plan is implemented, the Kam Sheung and Kam Tin roads are already often jammed," councillor Lui Kin, of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, said.

Also at the meeting, a development project next to the Yuen Long MTR station suffered a setback as the council passed a motion demanding the government further revise the plan, amended twice since 2005.

The present plan is to yield 1,876 private flats and 9,900 square metres of commercial space, after the government backed down from an initial proposal for 2,214 flats to lower development density.

Councillors concerned about traffic flow asked the administration to restore a pedestrian zone that appeared in the 2008 plan and to consult them and residents once more when the revisions had been made.