Urban planning

Planning officials stand their ground over development of 1,400 flats on Ap Lei Chau, despite residents’ objections

Planning Department staff hear about new traffic congestion and population density concerns from locals and elected representatives over 1.18 hectares

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 27 September, 2016, 2:02pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 27 September, 2016, 10:45pm

Hong Kong’s planning authority is standing its ground on a controversial proposal to rezone a driving school site in Ap Lei Chau for private residential development despite strong opposition by district councillors and residents.

The proposal to rezone at least 1.18 hectares of prime harbourfront land to allow construction of 1,400 private flats on Lee Nam Road was highlighted in Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying’s policy address in 2013 to boost the city’s short-term housing supply.

The Planning Department responded to concerns about higher popula

tion density and traffic congestion at a Town Planning Board meeting on Tuesday, citing a number of government departments as deeming it “technically feasible” to proceed with the plans.

“Taking into account the increase in traffic flows brought about by the proposed residential development, all major road junctions in Ap Lei Chau would still have spare capacities in the design year of 2021,” Ginger Kiang Kam-yin, a district planning officer from the department, said at the meeting.

About 10 residents opposing the plan staged a rally outside the board’s office in North Point during the meeting.

The 1.32 sq km island, located off Hong Kong island, is home to 90,000 residents and connected by the Ap Lei Chau bridge.

Kiang described the impact of the plan on Aberdeen Tunnel as “minimal” and said current traffic congestion was “caused by drivers switching lanes on the northbound down-ramp of Canal Road Flyover and the tailing-back effect of traffic heading towards Cross Harbour Tunnel”. She added that the situation would be improved when the MTR South Island line and Central-Wan Chai bypass came into operation.

But Southern district councillor Judy Chan Ka-pui said assessment data only reflected the number of vehicles and failed to include figures on the road’s fullness capacity.

Architectural sector lawmaker-elect Edward Yiu Chung-yim, another critic of the plan, earlier said Ap Lei Chau needed another 4.15 hectares of open space to meet the minimum standard and would still be short 2.83 hectares after taking future plans into account.

However, the department countered there would still be an overall surplus of 5.56 hectares of open space, including from neighbouring Aberdeen, to serve the planned population of about 159,000 residents.

Chan remained sceptical. “A third of the Southern district’s population is on Ap Lei Chau,” she said. “Is it really suitable to increase the population density in this area?”

“Kwun Tong is considered Hong Kong’s most densely populated area. They have 52,000 people per square kilometre, and we have 66,000 people per square kilometre on this tiny island,” she added.

Residents were asking for the site to be turned into a waterfront promenade or to include public facilities.

Is it really suitable to increase the population density in this area?
Judy Chan Ka-pui, Southern district councillor

The department has maintained that a smaller strip of harbourfront land measuring around 0.49 hectares, adjacent to the proposed site, could be used as a waterfront park or open space.

At least 10 hours were allocated for registered representatives to deliver their last comments on Tuesday. The board must hear from all the representatives before it and other officials can proceed with a question and answer session. The board is to deliberate in a closed door meeting after the session.

“Today the Town Planning Board has the opportunity to prove they’re not just a rubber stamp for the government,” Civic Party lawmaker Kenneth Chan Ka-lok said. “I hope the government will listen to the general public and return the harbourfront to its people.”

If the plan proceeds, the Hong Kong School of Motoring now occupying the site must be relocated.

The government has not been able to identify a new site for the school. It has leased out a smaller plot of land adjacent to the current site at a market rate until June 2018 for the school to continue its operations.