Embrace Challenges in Comprehensive Site-Searching (2)
With my explanation last week, I believe readers would have understood that the accusation of the Government keeping a lot of “idle land” in urban areas is a myth rather than fact, and that the development of brownfield sites has always been a major source of the medium and long-term land supply for Hong Kong. I'm going to elaborate more on the social cost and necessary supporting measures for the development of brownfield sites, and respond to some criticisms about the Government withholding land resources and wasting urban sites for temporary use.
Making optimal use of brownfield sites and consolidating operations thereon
Many brownfield operations are closely related to various sectors and industries, especially industrial operations such as logistics, port back-up, waste recycling, vehicle repair and construction. There are also a few local traditional trades such as soy sauce production. These brownfield operations are providing considerable employment opportunities. There is a need to carefully consider how to suitably provide the necessary operating space for the relevant industries in a land-efficient manner in other places in Hong Kong. Simply focusing on the development of brownfield sites without considering the necessary demand for land of these industries could not address the root of the problem, as the affected brownfield operations would likely spread or spill over to other areas eventually. Such an approach would not be able to tackle the myriad issues pertinent to brownfield sites, including land use planning, environmental impact as well as economic activities in a holistic manner.
With these in mind, the Government has commenced studies to explore the feasibility of consolidating brownfield operations through land efficient means such as multi-storey buildings, taking Hung Shui Kiu New Development Area as a pilot case, in order to provide suitable operating space for the relevant industries. The study is expected to be completed by the end of 2018. The Planning Department will also commission the Study on Existing Profile and Uses of Brownfield Sites in Hong Kong to establish a comprehensive profile of the overall distribution and uses of brownfield sites in the New Territories later this year. The findings will provide a comprehensive picture of brownfield sites to facilitate us to analyse and formulate appropriate policies, with a view to achieving the objectives of optimising land utilisation and improving the rural environment. The Government will elaborate our approach on tackling brownfield sites in due course.
Appropriate temporary use of suitable sites
From time to time, there are criticisms that the Government has wasted land resources by granting short-term tenancy (STT) or allowing temporary use of sites. This allegation is absolutely untrue. At present, the Lands Department (LandsD) is responsible for handling the grant and allocation of sites earmarked for specific long-term development. To optimise the use of land resources, if the long-term uses of the sites are being considered or not yet ready for implementation (for example, undergoing technical assessment or pending the approval of funding), the LandsD will arrange putting suitable sites to temporary uses as practicable and appropriate. This may include allocating sites to bureaux or departments for temporary uses; leasing the sites for commercial uses by tender (e.g. fee-paying public carparks); or directly letting the sites to certain organisations or groups for temporary uses in support of specific policy objectives with policy support from the relevant bureaux. Such arrangements aim to optimise the use of land resources prior to the implementation of the long-term development use.
For instance, a site at the junction of Shanghai Street and Soy Street, Yau Ma Tei is being rezoned for residential use. Since the judicial review proceedings related to the respective Draft Mong Kok Outline Zoning Plan have not yet concluded, the Draft Plan cannot be submitted to the Chief Executive in Council for consideration. We hope that the site can be put up for sale as soon as the relevant statutory planning procedures are completed and the site is ready for disposal. Before the completion of the relevant work, the site is being used as a fee-paying public carpark under STT for better land utilisation. Another example is a site adjacent to the temporary fee-paying public carpark on Po Lun Street, Lai Chi Kok. It is zoned "Government, Institution or Community" (G/IC) and has been reserved for use as sports ground/sports centre to meet the future population needs in Sham Shui Po. With a view to optimising the land prior to the completion of relevant technical assessments and the implementation of the development plan, the Government has allocated the site for temporary uses, including a temporary fee-paying public carpark under STT.
Four sites in Eastern District have also been reserved for G/IC use. Among them, the site at the junction of Oi Lai Street and Tung Hei Road in Shau Kei Wan has been reserved for the Sports Centre and Open Space at Aldrich Bay, while the site at the junction of Sheung On Street and Sheung Ping Street in Chai Wan has already been planned for regional open space purposes. Meanwhile, the sites at the junction of Shing Tai Road and Sheung Mau Street and Chong Fu Road in Chai Wan have been reserved for G/IC use in order to meet the future needs.
Another example is that as the eastern part of the new Central harbourfront would be used for infrastructure works related to Wan Chai Development Phase II and Shatin to Central Link projects in the next few years, the Government has, in some sites where works have been completed, implemented different short-term uses, such as setting up an observation wheel and organising events for early public enjoyment of the harbourfront. According to the information provided by the operators, more than 180 activities had been held at the Central Harbourfront Event Space over the past three years. Together with the observation wheel, the two short-term uses have attracted more than 5 million visits in their initial three-year tenancies. We share the public aspiration of making the Victoria Harbourfront into an interesting, lively and diversified place. By leveraging the flexibility of STT, we aim to bring in more activities for residents and visitors through adopting a place-making approach and realise our vision for the Victoria Harbour at the new Central harbourfront first. Having regard to the positive public responses and the support from the Harbourfront Commission as well as the Central and Western District Council, the Government has decided to extend the short-term uses to mid-2020.
Multi-pronged approach is indispensable
In a paper on the overview of land supply submitted to the Legislative Council’s Panel on Development this January, the Development Bureau has provided an overview on Hong Kong’s land supply and demand, the Government’s blueprint on planning and land development, various initiatives for land supply in the short, medium and long term, as well as an update of the territorial development strategy under “Hong Kong 2030+”. The facts and figures we presented on many occasions demonstrate the current-term government’s determination to identify land under a multi-pronged approach. We do not have the luxury to leave any site to stay idle for a prolonged period. Neither could we adopt just one single means to develop land resources, nor slacken our effort in the land supply process. In addition to optimising the use of existing land in built-up areas and developing areas with a greater concentration of brownfields, we will spare no efforts in our planning and development work. All government departments will work with professionalism to ensure that our work meets the requisite standards and puts our land into gainful uses.
19 March, 2017