There’s more to housing than just buildings
The search for more land supply for flats has targeted dozens of places previously sited for recreation, greening and openness. But housing is not just a roof over people’s heads and must also cater for the human need for open spaces
An unfortunate result of Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying’s relentless search for more land supply has been his administration’s willingness to ride roughshod over the need to provide green and recreational spaces. Officials have, over the past five years, targeted dozens of places previously sited for recreation, greening and openness for residential rezoning.
This must not continue. The new chief executive needs to provide not only sufficient quantity of housing, but quality neighbourhoods as well. It has been a long-standing planning policy to make adequate space for amenities and recreation – even if officials have ignored it in the name of housing. This supposedly requires a minimum of 20 hectares of open space and recreation for every 100,000 persons, but who bothers with it now?
A public garden in Kennedy Town is a case in point. Much loved by neighbours, the Cadogan Street garden is called temporary, even though it has been around for 18 years. Though an old neighbourhood, the town is slowly being regenerated, thanks to the MTR island line extension, an influx of trendy restaurants and shops, and also a nearby swimming pool and sports centre. It can potentially have a great waterfront and promenade, even though it is currently rundown and dirty.
The garden has provided relief for neighbours and a rare place for children to play. It is shortsighted of the government to try to take it away, in a neighbourhood that has great potential.
Officials want to demolish the garden site to make way for 600 private flats. Yet they claim the site is contaminated because it was previously an incinerator and an abattoir. If the soil was really so dangerous, why did they allow a temporary garden to sit there for almost two decades?
The government has a seven-year plan to decontaminate the site before building on top of it. The plan is being considered by the Town Planning Board. But given the willingness of the board to go along with the government, it’s hardly an impartial gatekeeper. Neighbours are fighting back, though. One is willing to launch a judicial review over the site’s faulty environmental assessment.
The next government should listen to the neighbours. However necessary, housing is not just a matter of providing a roof over people’s heads, but must also cater to the human need for open spaces.