Hong Kong housing

Hong Kong government slammed over plan to build housing on rare North Point playground

Green Sense says plan will worsen air quality in the district as 34-storey structure will hinder ventilation and reduce recreational space

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 18 September, 2016, 8:15pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 18 September, 2016, 10:44pm

A rezoning plan to turn a popular North Point playground into a single 34-storey subsidised-sale government housing block will reduce ventilation and recreational space in an already heavily built-up neighbourhood, an environmental group has warned.

The 0.12 hectare site between Tin Chiu Street, Java Road and Marble Road is currently zoned for government, institution or community (GIC) use. It is occupied by a public basketball court and a five-a-side soccer pitch.

It is one of the few recreational spots left in the area. A similar GIC site opposite was bulldozed several years ago to build the 32-storey Customs Department headquarters.

Green Sense chief Roy Tam Hoi-pong said the government pledged years ago to keep open three important ventilation corridors, one of them Tin Chiu Street, to promote better air flow. The new plan went back on this, he said.

“We feel this mode of development ... this obsessive search for land anywhere ... will have a huge impact on the community,” he said. “Sacrificing these ventilation corridors will mean North Point’s air quality will only continue to get worse.”

He criticised the government’s strategy of “grabbing” green-belt, recreational and GIC land for residential use, at the expense of public space and living quality, rather than going for brown-field sites or “controlling population growth” – curbing one-way permits and professional immigrants – which he said was the cause of housing pressures.

A tally by the group found that the government had already last year rezoned 24 green-belt, recreational and GIC sites comprising 58 hectares across Hong Kong.

Eastern district councillor Cheng Tat-hung, who represents North Point’s Tanner area, said the plan was ”inconceivable” in more than one way. Not only would it exacerbate stuffiness in inner streets, traffic congestion around Marble and Java roads was likely to worsen, he said.

“There are already very few recreational spots left in lower North Point,” Cheng said.

He believed the government needed a better development strategy than putting up single- block structures in the middle of urban areas.

“They haven’t even repaid their debt from taking away public pitches for the customs’ headquarters,” he said.

The Planning Department said the playground would be moved to a nearby site with “upgraded facilities”.

The Housing Department said air ventilation assessments suggested the proposed development would “not disturb the general wind flow” along Tin Chiu Street and Java and Marble roads under major prevailing winds.

The government has set a target to build 280,000 public sector flats by 2025-26, much of it to be met by rezoning 192 plots of land – including 90 green-belt sites. A total of 92 plots have so far been successfully rezoned, three rejected and 17 are being processed.