Tung Chung expansion to focus on the east
The government has dropped a proposal to reclaim land west of Tung Chung in response to green groups' calls, but instead wants to vastly increase the building density in the east.
The change was disclosed yesterday when a revised plan for expansion of the new town on Lantau Island was unveiled for public consultation.
"We hope the new plan will be better received by the public," development minister Paul Chan Mo-po said.
Roy Ng Hei-man, of the Conservancy Association, called the proposal "a "lesser evil", but said questions remained about air quality and protection of the Tung Chung River.
The latest blueprint proposes boosting the population of Tung Chung from 80,000 to 260,000; a new 120-hectare piece of land will be reclaimed to the east of the town centre, as in the previous plan announced last year.
The idea of reclaiming 14 hectares to the west of the town centre has been abandoned after environmental groups voiced fears it would affect the ecology of Tung Chung Bay.
However, there will still be some low-density development on existing land in the area.
The new site in the east will be built up with high-density developments and a new population of 117,000, with plot ratios raised on both residential and commercial zones. In particular, the proposed floor area for commercial offices has been increased from 200,000 to 500,000 square metres - a rise of 150 per cent.
The reason for the increase was to attract companies to set up offices in order to create more jobs for the new town, the Development Bureau said.
"After hearing views from the previous round of consultation, we consider the commercial development needs to reach a certain scale to attract companies," a spokeswoman said. "Business relating to airport services, such as logistics firms, may want to operate in Tung Chung."
Green Power scientist Dr Cheng Luk-ki, said a higher density development was preferable given that there was convincing demand for the proposal. However, he warned that the plan to move a new population of 140,000 to Tung Chung could expose more people to health risks caused by the serious air pollution there.
The green group studied air quality data from many parts of Hong Kong and found Tung Chung had the longest number of days in a year when ozone levels exceeded official limits.
The latest government plan involves a 30-metre-long conservation area along Tung Chung River, but Cheng said having a protection zone cover only the river course was not ideal when homes would still be built near the river.
Lawmaker Alice Mak Mei-kuen, who sits on the Lantau Development Advisory Committee, warned that the high-density development in the east would bring pressure on traffic and the environment.
The new plan is to build a total of 48,000 flats: 62 per cent as public housing; the rest private. It will also provide space for shops with a total gross floor area of about 300,000 square metres and the development of hotels with a total of 1,000 rooms. The public can respond until October 31.