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LCQ2: Development of underground space

Following is a question by the Hon Jeffrey Lam and a reply by the Secretary for Development, Mr Paul Chan, in the Legislative Council today (January 11):
 
Question:

The authorities launched a study in June 2015 to examine the feasibility of modelling after the business district of La Défense in Paris, France and the underground streets in Tokyo, Japan, etc. to develop underground space in four Strategic Urban Areas (SUAs), namely Tsim Sha Tsui West, Admiralty/Wan Chai, Causeway Bay and Happy Valley, with a view to improving road traffic, providing more community facilities and land, as well as alleviating the overcrowded pedestrian environment. The authorities have drawn up the preliminary planning concepts and launched in November last year a three-month Stage 1 Public Engagement for the Pilot Study on Underground Space Development in Selected Strategic Urban Areas. Regarding the development of underground space, will the Government inform this Council:

(1) as the authorities have indicated that it is necessary to analyse in detail the various considerations for underground space development, including geotechnical and structural constraints, fire safety, financial viability, land ownership, as well as the impacts on the surrounding environment, etc., of the details of the relevant analyses;

(2) whether the authorities have determined the order of priority for the development of underground space in the aforesaid four SUAs; if they have, of the SUA in which underground space will first be developed; of the respective anticipated completion dates and construction costs of such development projects in the various SUAs; and

(3) given that the Government has proposed to develop two underground shopping streets in the Kai Tak Outline Zoning Plan to connect Kowloon City and San Po Kong with the Kai Tak Station of the Shatin to Central Link currently under construction and to enhance the integration of the new and the old districts, of the latest progress of the implementation of such proposal?

Reply:

President,

Hong Kong is a small city with a dense population. The streets in the developed urban areas are often clogged with heavy pedestrian and vehicular flow. The compact urban layout makes it hard to resolve the congestion problem and meet the demands of the community. It also imposes severe constraints on the sustainable development of urban areas. Underground space is a hidden land resource. If we can use it systematically, it can bring new opportunities to meet various needs of social and commercial facilities as well as to address various issues including traffic, environmental, etc. due to inadequate at-grade space in urban areas.

The Government commenced in June 2015 a Pilot Study on Underground Space Development in Selected Strategic Urban Areas (the Study), which has selected Causeway Bay, Happy Valley, Admiralty/Wan Chai and Tsim Sha Tsui West as four strategic urban areas (SUAs) for study. The scope of the Study includes (i) identify the opportunities, suitability and considerations for developing the underground space in these areas, the needs of local communities as well as possible uses of locations with potential for underground space development; (ii) formulate Underground Master Plans for these four areas; and (iii) develop conceptual development schemes for the potential underground space development.

A number of successful examples overseas indicate that underground space, when developed with creativity and appropriate spatial strategies, can resolve many district issues, including inadequate at-grade circulation space, lack of connectivity amongst pedestrian walkways, poor environment and inadequate community facilities, etc.

My reply to the various parts of the Hon Jeffrey Lam's question is as follows:

(1) and (2) Since the commencement of the Study, the study team has conducted a baseline review to find out the existing situation and needs of the respective SUAs as well as their opportunities for and constraints of future underground space development. The Study has also made reference to the successful experience of other cities in drawing up preliminary planning concepts. We launched the Stage 1 Public Engagement (PE1) in November 2016. We consulted the District Councils of Wan Chai and Yau Tsim Mong as well as the Town Planning Board and Harbourfront Commission. We also held three focus group meetings to discuss relevant topics with various stakeholders. In addition, we organised roving exhibitions and established a dedicated website to collect views from the general public and disseminate information to them.

On completing the PE1 exercise, we will develop conceptual schemes for underground space development with due consideration of the views received. Preliminary technical assessments on different aspects of these conceptual schemes, including geotechnical/structural constraints, fire safety, financial viability, land ownership and impact on the surrounding environment, will then be undertaken. Based on the findings of these technical assessments, we will make projections for the preliminary development schedules and costs for the underground space development projects. We anticipate that these tasks should be substantially completed by early 2018. After that, we will launch the Stage 2 Public Engagement for the relevant conceptual schemes. To sum up, we cannot provide the information requested by the Hon Lam for the time being.

(3) As for the two planned underground shopping streets in the Kai Tak Development (KTD) according to the approved Kai Tak Outline Zoning Plan, they are about 1 500 metres long, linking with Kowloon City and San Po Kong respectively, and connecting to To Kwa Wan Station and Kai Tak Station of the MTR Shatin to Central Link. We have already reserved connection points at these two MTR stations, currently under construction, for connecting with the underground shopping streets.

Since the major parts of these two underground shopping streets will adjoin or run alongside various development sites, we plan to develop the two streets and their adjacent development sites together.  To achieve synergy effect and provide a comfortable and attractive shopping and walking environment, we will require the developers to arrange part of the retail floor area of their development sites to connect with the underground shopping streets. In future, barrier-free pedestrian walkways/corridors will be available round the clock at the underground shopping streets for ease of access by the general public. To tie in with the land sale programmes of the development sites concerned, we plan to implement the underground shopping streets in the KTD in stages.  Suitable land sale conditions will be imposed to require the developers to build, manage and operate the underground shopping streets connected with their development sites.

Thank you, President.
 
Ends/Wednesday, January 11, 2017
Issued at HKT 12:36

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