Scheme to build more flats at Kai Tak must be run by us first, Hong Kong planning experts say
Harbourfront guardians stress the need to get balance right and maintain quality of life in prime city area
Planning experts say they will keep a close watch on whether the government’s plan to further increase development density at Kai Tak will remain in line with original planning principles and parameters.
This comes after development minister Paul Chan Mo-po told the Post earlier this week that after increasing the number of flats to be built at Kai Tak by 4,500 last year, the government is now mulling another 11,000 by rezoning more hotel sites for residential use.
The plan, if approved by town planners, will increase the stock of flats and overall development density by 50 per cent from their original levels.
“[Chan] will still have to consult us on it and get it past the Town Planning Board,” said Vincent Ng Wing-shun, who chairs the Harbourfront Commission’s task force on Kai Tak.
“I will not say whether I am against it now, but as guardians of the harbourfront we will hold the line and ensure that they stick to all the planning principles.”
This would include keeping synergy between the development areas, environment and harbourfront and maintaining quality of life, he said.
After the old airport was relocated from Kai Tak in 1998, more than 300 hectares of prime urban brownfield land by the harbour was freed up.
Touted as the city’s “heritage, green, sports and tourism hub”, then-development chief Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor envisioned quality living with lower density and more open space in an urban node for a population of 89,800, anchored by a sports complex and cruise terminal.
In 2012, her successor, Chan, revealed a sudden U-turn in the government’s stance, to prioritise the city’s pressing housing needs amid a surge in prices and acute shortage of affordable homes, much to the dismay of urban planners who believed a consensus had already been forged during three rounds of consultation.
Ng said changes in plans could be put up for discussion in response to society’s changing needs.
University of Hong Kong geography professor Dr Ng Cho-nam, also a task force member, said land supply and housing pressures were not as heavy during Lam’s time in office and higher development density would probably be easier for the public to swallow now.
HKU’s Ng said a denser Kai Tak was acceptable if it did not affect parameters such as ventilation and air flow, but such problems could be averted through good urban design. He said low-density development in prime urban areas would never be affordable to the wider public.
Chan has stressed that the revised plans would not affect the total area of public space available or the themes and planning principles of Kai Tak.
Polytechnic University political scientist Dr Chung Kim-wah, an expert on housing policy, believed Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying – who is widely believed to be seeking re-election in 2017 – was trying to send signals that his administration was on track to meeting housing targets.