Private developers have been criticised for abusing government regulations over the car parks in residential buildings, making money from floor area for which they did not pay a land premium. In some cases, developers are building up to nine floors of car parks that they can then sell or lease without paying land premium, a green group says. Some car park spaces are being rented out as car-sales lots. Research by the group, Green Sense, found that projects built near MTR stations also have a lot of parking space, despite government policy encouraging people to make use of public transport. Existing planning guidelines requires developers to provide a certain number of parking spaces depending on the size of the development. These areas will not be counted towards the property's gross floor area - the maximum area they can build on a piece of land. The guidelines are now under review by the Transport Department. Among 300 properties completed after 2001 surveyed by Green Sense, 10 per cent have car parks with more than three floors, elevating the flats by up to 30 metres. The car park that takes up most space is in The Legend in Tai Hang. It spans nine floors and offers one parking spot for each of the 396 flats. Discovery Park in Tsuen Wan, which has a five-storey car park, had one floor turned into a car-sales depot due to low use, and this change was approved by the Town Planning Board, Green Sense project manager Gabrielle Ho Ka-po said. Flourish Mansion in Mong Kok, which is just a five-minute walk away from the MTR station, has eight floors of car park. Ho said the height of each level was 'unusually high' at 3.8 metres, suggesting that the developer wanted to elevate the building so that even the lowest residential floor could be higher than most of the old buildings nearby. The car park of 8 Clear Water Bay Road, above Choi Hung MTR station, had a use rate of 55.7 per cent, Ho said, adding that during a site visit by the group on October 23 the entire eighth floor was unused. Ho said these tall car park podiums acted like walls that blocked ventilation, views and sunlight from older buildings in the area. The group urged the government to tighten policies so that only car parks on the ground floor and basement were exempted from the gross floor area. Car parks on higher floors should only get a 50 per cent exemption, it said. Properties above MTR stations should also have fewer car parking spaces, as owners could make use of the railway and the park-and-ride facilities nearby, the group added. Lau Chun-kong, international director and head of valuation advisory services at Jones Lang LaSalle, said: 'There is nothing wrong for the developers to maximise the use of land. After all, buyers of luxury flats would usually have more than one family car.' A member of the Town Planning Board, Starry Lee Wai-king, who is also a legislator, agreed that a shortage of parking spaces in Hong Kong was an issue. But she said more incentives should be offered to developers to build the car parks underground to avoid the so-called walled effect of large buildings. Hong Kong Institute of Planners vice-president Kim Chan agreed a review of planning guidelines was needed. 'We are talking about a low-carbon economy. It is not too unreasonable to offer fewer parking spaces at buildings near public transport or MTR stations,' he said. Democratic Party lawmaker Lee Wing-tat said car ownership in the city was not very common, with an average of one car to a dozen adults. 'We do not need that much space to park cars,' he said. The regulations were so lax that developers could exploit them easily, Lee said. 'Building car parks is cheap. Developers would rather build more now and let them go unused later, than to waste the chance to make more money,' he said. HKR International, the developer of Discovery Park, said it would not comment 'before studying the report'. Cheung Kong Holdings, the developer of The Legend, would not comment. Chun Wo Development, which built 8 Clear Water Bay Road, and Yu Tai Hing, the developer of Flourish Mansion, could not be reached for comment yesterday. A Planning Department spokesman declined to comment last night.