Hong Kong housing

Hong Kong needs to build up surplus in land bank, minister says in rebuff to critics

Paul Chan dismisses fears of overdevelopment and says excess capacity will allow flexibility in dealing with changing housing and business needs

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 30 October, 2016, 7:13pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 30 October, 2016, 10:53pm

Development minister Paul Chan Mo-po denied that a long-term plan to accumulate more land than the city required would lead to too much expansion, saying a larger land bank could provide flexibility in the event of future uncertainties.

In his weekly blog posting on Sunday, Chan also reiterated that developing the city’s sprawling brownfield sites, which are degraded agricultural land occupied by businesses such as car parks and storage containers, would be an “unavoidable option” to meet the continuous demand for land.

Chan was responding to criticism about the government’s 2030-plus planning blueprint released last week for a six-month public consultation. In the blueprint, the government said Hong Kong needed 4,800 hectares of land to build flats and stimulate economic development. With 3,600 hectares already identified, the city still needed to find 1,200 hectares.

The government recommended two large-scale new town developments in the northern New Territories and on reclaimed land to the east of Lantau Island – which could provide 1,720 hectares of land – to meet demand.

Officials have said that the blueprint had overestimated the demand for land by about 10 per cent to provide extra room for bigger flats and more public space.

There has always been the reality that Hong Kong has not enough land, instead of the suspicion of too much land
Paul Chan Mo-po

But the plan has met with strong criticism and claims that obtaining more land than necessary would lead to overexpansion of urbanised areas and threaten the vulnerable countryside and ecosystem.

In his blog post, Chan said the city lacked land reserves and room for planning, and that creating such reserves was necessary to provide enough space and flexibility to prepare for future changes.

“There has always been the reality that Hong Kong has not enough land, instead of the suspicion of too much land.”

He said the two new towns aimed not only at providing land for housing but also space to create business centres, so residents would not need to face long journeys to work each day, which would also reduce the burden on the transport system.

Chan added that one of the planning principles set out in the blueprint was to preserve the city’s countryside and ecosystem. He said the government would not neglect this during development.

He also reiterated that developing brownfield sites would be necessary despite challenges about resettling operations on such sites.

“The government has great determination to handle [the challenges],” he said.