A "minor increase" in development density proposed for the arts hub actually represents a doubling of floor space, a surveyor told lawmakers yesterday.
The proposal, announced by the West Kowloon Cultural District Authority on Friday, involved raising the amount of floor area by 15 per cent over the whole 40-hectare site to help remedy both the underestimated budget and the housing shortage.
But Tony Tse Wai-chuen, representing architects and surveyors, noted that the space designated for flats, offices and hotels would take up only 17 hectares.
That was where the planned increase in floor area would be concentrated, translating into an actual density increase of more than 30 per cent in these properties, he said at a Legislative Council meeting.
The remaining areas are zoned for open space.
"Given the focused development and the same height limit, the buildings would become fatter by a third. It could adversely affect the environment," he told a joint subcommittee monitoring implementation of the West Kowloon Cultural District project. "The authority is opening a can of worms because the increase would deviate from public consensus on the existing planning parameters, which had taken years to agree on."
The change would result in about 1 million sq ft more in floor area, equivalent to a third of the office space at the two IFC towers in Central.
Other lawmakers on the subcommittee also voiced concern that massive buildings would dominate the arts project.
The authority also said that to reduce costs, the budget reserved for the main 19-hectare park, planned to resemble New York's Central Park, would be cut by almost half - from HK$1.87 billion to HK$1 billion. Consultancy studies on its design and management would be suspended.
Tse said a cheaper park did not necessarily mean a less attractive one. The government could offer a helping hand to the arts hub given its expected income from sales of land at the site, he suggested. "Despite a rapid increase in construction costs, flat prices have also doubled since the approval of the budget, meaning the government's land revenue is safe and sound," he said.
The authority's chairwoman, Chief Secretary Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, said it had yet to decide on the use of the additional floor area, which was awaiting approval from the Town Planning Board.
Lam said some of the space could be used for serviced apartments to house performers from overseas. She insisted that the authority would make sure the higher development density would not have a negative impact on the environment.