Stripped down to its basics, the Territorial Development Strategy Review (TDSR) released this week is a request by the Government for public endorsement of its plan to continue to reclaim the harbour. There are pockets of land in the New Territories suitable for urban development, but, says the Government, they will not be available quickly enough to solve Hong Kong's pressing need to find space to house another million people and maintain growth over the next decade. What is more, even if all the developable land in the New Territories were utilised, it would still be insufficient to meet Hong Kong's insatiable demand for more space. Secretary for Planning, Environment and Lands, Bowen Leung Po-wing, said concerns over the further reclamation of Victoria Harbour prompted the Government to conduct more studies to examine the relative merits of two 'extreme' patterns of growth - a New-Territories-biased option and a harbour-biased option. But the studies' conclusion was that neither a 'NT-biased' nor 'harbour-biased' approach would satisfy Hong Kong's development needs, he said. As expected, the consultation document has got the thumbs down from opponents of further reclamation of Victoria Harbour. Legislative Councillor Christine Loh Kung-wai, who is trying to introduce her Protection of the Harbour Bill aimed at requiring Legco approval of all plans for reclamation, described the TDSR document as 'Government propaganda'. She is enlisting the help of professionals to devise an alternative plan to meet Hong Kong's land demand by developing the New Territories instead of filling in the harbour. Winston Chu, a lawyer and former member of the Town Planning Board, criticised the Government for being stubborn and refusing to consider alternatives. In response, Government Town Planner Ted Pryor said: 'People have been led to believe the New Territories is a piece of cake. Oh, it's not.' He said the Government had already taken the opportunity to turn green field sites there into new towns in the 1970s. 'But these opportunities are gone,' he said. Although a lot of land seemed to be available in the region, studies by the Planning Department showed only a limited amount could be developed, he said. Hong Kong's existing and planned land areas total 111,900 hectares. But 86 per cent have either been developed or are unsuitable for development. They comprise the country parks (43.2 per cent), hilly country (18 per cent), existing and planned urban areas (24 per cent) and conservation zones like Mai Po (0.8 per cent). The remaining 14 per cent, measuring 15,800 hectares, are lowland rural areas less than 50 metres above sea level which may be suitable for development. But a closer analysis shows that not all these areas can be developed because they comprise a complicated 'jigsaw' of small holdings, village settlements, unplanned container storage sites, flood-prone lowland areas, abandoned land, pig and chicken farms, golf courses, fish ponds, 'fung shui' areas, burial grounds, wrecked car dumps, sites of special scientific interests, etc. After major development constraints are taken into account, only 3,111 hectares can actually be developed. Dr Pryor said even these stretches of land might not be developed easily because they were predominantly areas of mixed use in private land ownership. Detailed studies would need to be done before development could take place and land resumption might prove time consuming, he said. 'The harbour reclamation has to go ahead because we don't have the luxury of a lot of time to solve these problems.' Mr Chu dismissed the argument. 'All over the world, a city develops outwards, not inwards, and having to deal with private land ownership is universal.' Had the Government taken alternative views into account, studies would have been made and New Territories sites would have become available. Mr Chu said New Territories villagers were quite happy to develop their farmlands, but were barred by law from doing so and so had rented them out for container storage. 'Dr Pryor countered that it was difficult to clear the containers because alternative sites would have to be found,' said Mr Chu. 'My answer is we can put the containers at the border closed areas, which are closer to China.' Mr Chu said there was no reason why Hong Kong should continue to keep the plot ratio for most of the New Territories artificially low. 'At my last Town Planning Board meeting, the board approved the zoning plan for Hung Shui Kiu [between Yuen Long and Tuen Mun]. Only 7,900 people will be housed on the 600.5-hectare site. 'The area should have become a regional town accommodating a lot more people. And 661 hectares is the total area of land the Government has or planned to get by reclaiming the harbour.' The Government's view is that both the metro area and the New Territories will need 'solution space' to address their particular social and economic problems. The TDSR was formulated on the basis of a number of key assumptions. The main one is that Hong Kong's population will grow by one million in the next decade, pushing the figure to 7.3 million by 2006 and 8.1 million by 2011. Its hub functions as a major port, aviation interchange, multi-function headquarters providing support services for industrial development in China, a tourist destination and stop-over point and convention and exhibition centre will continue to strengthen. These developments call for the provision of 3,000 hectares of land - 50 per cent for urban use and 50 per cent for port activities - over the next 15 years. But what about the years beyond 2011? Will Hong Kong's population continue to grow and what will be the physical limit of further development? These are the questions that the TDSR does not address, but which Legislative Councillors including Ms Loh asked at a recent Legco panel meeting. Officials were not ready to offer answers. Dr Pryor admitted these were crucial questions. 'As a planner, there is a limit as to how far I can realistically look ahead. 'We may or may not have 8.1 million people by 2011. But we'd better adopt a contingent approach. 'We need to have a steady, rolling programme of land production.'