Paul Chan

Country park carve-up the worst of all land options

Short-sighted view overlooks the fact there are plenty of other sites for housing development

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 17 September, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 25 September, 2013, 1:58pm

Earmarking sites in country parks for housing - an idea raised by Development Secretary Paul Chan Mo-po in his blog early this month - may have some attractions. But it also has big drawbacks.

Many people support the idea as they believe locking up so much land for country parks is the main reason Hong Kong has such a high development density, while Singapore can enjoy a spacious living environment.

The development density in Singapore is lower but there are still numerous green areas in the country. People can also live in spacious private housing at a reasonable price.

People believe the better living environment is attributable to the fact that 50 per cent of the land in Singapore has been developed, against 23 per cent in Hong Kong. Forty per cent of Hong Kong's land is covered by country parks.

It is tempting for some Hong Kong people that we could improve our living environment and have bigger flats if we developed sites in country parks. Property prices may also drop if we have more housing supply, some say.

But our living environment would not improve even if we sacrifice our country parks. Property prices would not fall because of it. Most of the parks are in hilly areas, which are not accessible by mass transport.

Who would be willing to live there? Rich people, of course. They own cars and would pay higher prices for living in such a verdant environment.

There is no doubt that the government will sell part of these parks for private housing. And developers could build another Hong Kong Parkview-style luxury project near Wong Nai Chung Reservoir Park. Even if the government and developers promise to plant more trees, do you still have confidence in them given their previous poor management in planting?

If the government builds public housing only and invests heavily in transport, is it worth it to lose these parks?

A former head of a green group says country parks also serve as water catchment areas. And air pollution would worsen if we lose some of them.

Fortunately, we have plenty of areas available for development. Lok Ma Chau Loop, south of the Shenzhen Futian commercial area, is one such area, with about 100 hectares. The Planning Department has already studied its development potential.

Anderson Road, Shek O, and the Lamma quarries are also available for residential development.

We have many choices to increase land supply - sacrificing our country parks should not be one of them.

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