The 2,800-hectare 'frontier closed area' along the border with Shenzhen is to be studied for development amid growing pressure for further economic integration with the mainland. The study was one of several key issues in a consultation paper released yesterday that sets out planning options for the next 30 years. The research into border area development comes after Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa floated the idea of a free-trade zone between Hong Kong and the mainland last month. In the 'Hong Kong 2030: Planning Vision and Strategy' consultation paper, the Government says it has to consider the overall benefit of opening up the border area for development, and whether it is the only means of enhancing co-operation between Hong Kong and Shenzhen. Deputy Director of Planning Ava Ng Tse Suk-ying said officials would study the development potential of each piece of land in the closed area, including 90 hectares of new land south of the Shenzhen River made available by rerouting the river. Ms Ng said some members of the public had already suggested developing the area and further public views would be sought on its possible use. But she emphasised the difficulties in developing the area, including infrastructure problems and the resettlement of villagers. Ms Ng said the 2,800 hectares had many steep slopes, wetlands that needed conserving and security facilities that could not be developed. Businessmen and politicians have in the past proposed a trade and research centre in the border zone to facilitate integration with Shenzhen, but the Government has not seemed keen. Some options for developing the area would be laid out in the next consultation round in October, Ms Ng said. Daniel Lam Wai-keung, vice-chairman of rural body the Heung Yee Kuk, said the border area should be properly developed. 'It would be a waste if this big piece of land is left undeveloped. However, the Government should hammer out solutions to strike a balance between development and environmental protection,' he said. Ms Ng said the Government was also evaluating the need to build an additional link with eastern Shenzhen, either by road or rail. She said existing links could only accommodate traffic demand for the next 15 years. Cheng Yiu-tong, chairman of the Hong Kong-China Relations Strategic Development Research Fund, welcomed the Government's consideration of new links with Shenzhen. He said better infrastructure ties would help eliminate a concept of boundaries that was part of the colonial era. 'There is an urgency to develop more transport links in light of the rapid growth in the number of people travelling between the two sides,' said Mr Cheng, also a local National People's Congress delegate. But he stressed the principle of 'one country, two systems' should still hold, even when the geographical boundaries became more blurred. The consultation paper also seeks the public's opinions on the density of future development areas, asking whether higher densities, such as in Tseung Kwan O, or lower densities, such as at Sha Tin, would be more appropriate. Other issues for consideration include the introduction of a land bank to accommodate special economic activities, the possibility of allowing existing industrial buildings to be converted into houses, the desirability of opening up reservoirs for recreational use, and the provision of jobs in the New Territories to encourage decentralisation.