Up to 350,000 people could live in one of Hong Kong’s last untouched areas, study finds
Consultant hired by government lays out two scenarios for developing new town also featuring science park across from Shenzhen
Up to 350,000 people could live in one of Hong Kong’s last untouched frontiers if it were developed into a new town to include a science park and industries focused on logistics and innovation.
In the consultant’s study commissioned by the government, two scenarios were suggested for the New Territories North border area: providing homes for either 255,000 or 350,000 people.
That would equal the population range of seven to 10 Taikoo Shing estates.
The study by Ove Arup and Partners looked at some 5,300 hectares encompassing parts of Lok Ma Chau, Ta Kwu Ling, Hung Lung Hang, Queen’s Hill and Fanling Golf Course. It did not include the existing Fanling and Sheung Shui new towns, which combined have a population of 259,942, or the planned Kwu Tung North and Fanling North new development areas.
Under either option, the area could provide 215,000 jobs and take between 22 and 26 years to complete if the government proceeds.
The study detailed a third scenario, with a population of 397,000. But it was not recommended as the population density would be higher than that of Tseung Kwan O and was thought incompatible with nearby rural settlements.
“With town-centre-type developments just across our northern boundary, the present rural New Territories North is a striking contrast,” the study said. Arup was commissioned by the Planning Department and the Civil Engineering and Development Department.
At present, the area comprises rural settlements, farmland, as well as brownfield sites with open storage yards. Tens of thousands of residents are estimated to live there.
Despite its sparse development, more than 610,000 people and 42,000 vehicles pass through the area daily, according to 2015 statistics.
“The [site] could be more than just a boundary area,” the study said. “Its development potential should be better harnessed.”
Arup said a “smart, green, resilient” development approach should be adopted, promoting a low-carbon environment equipped with smart city infrastructure and technology.
Its strategic location near Shenzhen and the Pearl River Delta meant the area was suitable for industries such as logistics and innovation and technology, the study added.
A science park or industrial estate could be positioned some 500 metres from the southern edge of the Liantang-Heung Yuen Wai boundary control point.
Spanning 56 hectares, the area could house innovation, research and development industries.
The study also said development should foster an integration of urban, rural and natural components, considering preserving established settlements and arable agricultural land.
Commenting on the study, Professor Ng Mee-kam, director of the urban studies programme at Chinese University, urged officials to “be more creative” and draft policies to promote green living so that existing planning standards and guidelines could be updated.
“Even in Shenzhen or mainland China, they’re talking about sponge city development,” Ng said. “How can Hong Kong develop a policy for a lower-carbon environment? Can it be more self-sufficient for food?”
Ng said such development plans seldom noted how people already used the space and how important it was to them.
“We don’t know what kind of cultural traits or important heritage we need to conserve and preserve.
“My worry is that we’ll see another Sha Tin or Tai Po. Sha Tin may be cutting edge in the 20th century, but we shouldn’t be doing that any more. This is a new frontier, we need to have a more futuristic vision for that place.”
The report was commissioned in 2014, after the 2013 chief executive policy address identified New Territories North for study to help meet the city’s long-term development beyond 2030.
It also looked at the potential of Fanling Golf Course and said the partial development would provide around 4,600 flats, while the larger one would provide 13,200 flats.
The study added that both options were technically feasible and that a full development option would require more transport infrastructure support. Partial development could be implemented regardless of whether the government goes ahead with the new town.