Hong Kong's long-term development study will consider whether outlying islands should be connected to urban areas with bridges and tunnels via the proposed new artificial island, planning and civil engineering officials said yesterday.
Ling Kar-kan, the director of planning, said: "It will be feasible to consider if road links ... can be provided to connect the outlying islands to the newly developed area."
By this he was referring to a proposed large artificial island between Hong Kong Island and Lantau Island that is now under consultation. The suggestion is backed by Islands District councillors who met Ling yesterday.
But a planning academic and a conservationist have criticised the idea, saying it would disrupt the characteristics of these outlying islands.
Ling, meanwhile, said that south Lantau would be reserved for conservation and leisure purposes, while the northern part would continue to serve strategic development needs.
His seemingly definite comment on plans for Lantau come soon after Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying set up a committee to look into the island's development potential.
In yesterday's Islands council meeting, residents' representatives expressed concern over the government's plan for the large artificial island between Hong Kong Island and Lantau.
Some of them asked for road connections between their home islands and the artificial island, which the government says could multiply housing land supply in response to the lengthening queue for public flats.
"Unless you will study the feasibility of connecting the artificial island and outlying islands, including Lantau, we will oppose your proposal," council vice-chairwoman Chau Chuen-heung said.
Chau was addressing Robin Lee Kui-biu, deputy head of the civil engineering and development department.
Echoing Ling, Lee said studies could include whether tunnels and bridges could link up the homes. Another possibility was for island residents to take a short ferry ride to the artificial island, from where they could catch a train downtown.
Ng Cho-nam, a geography professor at the University of Hong Kong, cast doubt on the proposal to connect the islands by road. "There would be room for residential development, but the local economic and cultural characteristics would be unnecessarily lost," he said.
Paul Zimmerman, from Designing Hong Kong, which works at improving urban planning, called the proposal "unrealistic", taking into account the environmental costs. "All these islands are small, so it makes little sense practically to get increased vehicular access," he said.