The Kai Tak development project may be redesigned to meet imminent housing needs, as the government reviews its planned residential density for the site of the former airport.
Secretary for Development Paul Chan Mo-po revealed the sudden change in the government's stance yesterday, forgoing a public consensus on the design reached in a consultation lasting more than two years.
The move triggered criticism and disappointment among urban planners who said the government did not respect the consultation process.
The Kai Tak development - hailed as the "Heritage, Green, Sports and Tourism Hub of Hong Kong" - aims to provide quality living with lower density and more open space in an urban node, accommodating a population of 89,800. It would also be home to a world-class sports complex and cruise terminal.
But its design and development density would now come under review because of a serious lack of housing sites, Chan said on RTHK.
Vincent Ng Wing-shun, chairman of the Harbourfront Commission's Kai Tak task force, said he was puzzled by the turnaround as the government had hailed the design process as the city's best approach to reaching a consensus. "It seems we are … giving up quality for quantity. The ditching of the design will take away trust between the public and the government."
Timothy Fok Tsun-ting, president of the Hong Kong Olympic Committee, said it was a big disappointment as the sporting community had been looking forward to a world-class venue in a convenient location.
But Michael Choi Ngai-min, a member of the Long-Term Housing Strategy Steering Committee, said he supported increasing residential land as the planned density was too low.
Chan did not say how many flats would be added, but said that the district should not have too many residential developments, given that a cruise terminal would be nearby.
A person familiar with the project said the administration was considering several options to increase residential and commercial use at Kai Tak, including relocating the stadium to a site near Sunny Bay MTR Station on Lantau Island, which would require reclamation.
The review would also look into the possibility of more commercial sites, the source said.
"There's a need to review Kai Tak as some other planned housing sites are at stake," she said, referring to a three-town project in the northeastern New Territories that had run into opposition.