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LCQ21: Study on two sites on the periphery of country parks

Following is a question by the Hon Tanya Chan and a written reply by the Secretary for Development, Mr Eric Ma, in the Legislative Council today (June 28):
 
Question:

On the 17th of last month, the Government announced that it had invited the Hong Kong Housing Society (HKHS) to undertake technical and ecological studies (including the potential for developing public housing and elderly homes) in respect of two sites on the periphery of country parks (peripheral site studies). The two sites are located in Tai Lam and Shui Chuen O, each covering about 20 hectares of lands within Tai Lam Country Park and Ma On Shan Country Park respectively. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:
 
(1) of the respective specific locations and boundaries of the two aforesaid sites (to be illustrated on maps marked with the boundaries of the country parks concerned);
 
(2) of the criteria adopted by the Government and its justifications for determining the locations and boundaries of the sites covered by the peripheral site studies;
 
(3) whether there is currently any site in the Sha Tin District not within Ma On Shan Country Park that is suitable for developing public housing and elderly homes; if so, of the reasons why the Government still decided to undertake the peripheral site study in respect of the site in Shui Chuen O;
 
(4) as the Government has already planned to develop public housing on three sites at Kam Tin South, of the reasons why the Government still decided to undertake the peripheral site study in respect of the site in Tai Lam;
 
(5) of the process through which the locations and the boundaries of the two aforesaid sites were determined; whether consultations with relevant government departments and other stakeholders (e.g. professionals, public organisations, members of the local communities and the general public) were included in the process; if so, of the government departments, organisations and persons consulted, as well as the channels and dates of such consultations; if not, the reasons for that;
 
(6) whether it knows if HKHS has finished preparing the study briefs on the two aforesaid peripheral site studies; if HKHS has, whether HKHS can provide such documents, and of the process through which such documents were prepared; whether the persons engaged in the preparation work include (i) government officers (if so, of their post titles and the departments to which they belong), and (ii) other stakeholders (if so, of their names as well as the channels, modes and dates of their engagement); if not, the reasons for that; and
 
(7) of the criteria adopted by the Government for deciding the organisation to be responsible for undertaking the peripheral site studies, and whether stakeholders other than the Government and HKHS were consulted prior to making such a decision; if so, of the details; if not, the reasons for that?
 
Reply:

President,

In its reply to a question raised by the Hon Tanya Chan in the Legislative Council on May 31, 2017 concerning the ecological and technical studies of the sites on the periphery of country parks, the Government has stated that the Hong Kong Housing Society (HKHS) has long been an important partner of the Government in housing development and is well experienced in the development of subsidised and elderly housing. The Government has invited HKHS to conduct ecological and technical studies on two sites falling within the periphery of country parks in order to look into their ecological, landscape and recreational values, as well as their potential and constraints of public housing development. The aim is to provide more information and an objective basis for the public to further consider and rationally discuss whether a small proportion of land on the periphery of country parks with relatively low ecological and public enjoyment value can be allocated for purposes such as public housing and non-profit-making elderly homes. The Government is pleased to note that HKHS is willing to do so with its own resources.

HKHS will carry out and fund the ecological and technical studies. It is understood that the HKHS studies will cover two sites on the periphery of country parks, one in Tai Lam, Yuen Long (to the west of Tai Lam Tunnel Toll Plaza, covering some 20 hectares of Tai Lam Country Park), and the other in Shui Chuen O, Sha Tin (adjacent to Shui Chuen O Estate, covering some 20 hectares of Ma On Shan Country Park). The Government has not taken part in the work on taking forward the studies, and hence does not have the information relating to the studies, including the exact locations and areas of the two sites in Tai Lam, Yuen Long and Shui Chuen O, Sha Tin, the considerations in site selection, the preparation of the study brief and its content, as well as the consultation arrangements during the study.

To increase the short to medium-term housing sites, the Government has been adopting a multi-pronged strategy for increasing land supply, including the conduct of various on-going land use reviews. Regarding the public housing developments at Kam Tin South mentioned in the question, they are taken forward based on the proposals of the "Land Use Review of Kam Tin South and Pat Heung" completed in 2014.  The review was a district-based land use review and planning project, mainly examining the development potential of the West Rail Kam Sheung Road Station and Pat Heung Maintenance Centre, as well as the possibility of using their adjoining land for housing developments. In parallel, the land use reviews conducted by the Planning Department (PlanD) in the Sha Tin and Ma On Shan districts have so far identified a number of sites for public housing development. As for residential care homes for the elderly, it is an always permitted use in the “Residential (Group A)” zones of the Sha Tin and Ma On Shan districts, and does not require an application to the Town Planning Board.  PlanD will also reserve suitable locations or space for subsidised residential care homes for the elderly based on the advice of the Social Welfare Department. It is understood that the locations covered by the ecological and technical studies to be conducted by HKHS will not overlap with those covered by the land use reviews by the Government. As mentioned above, HKHS will conduct the relevant studies on its own and the studies are not related to the on-going planning work of the Government in any way.

The studies by HKHS are preliminary feasibility studies. The Government's invitation to HKHS for carrying out the studies does not mean that the Government has agreed to any housing development in the country park areas under the studies.  Whether the concerned areas in country parks are suitable for housing development will be subject to their ecological and public enjoyment values, the impacts of developments on the country parks and the ecological environment, the development feasibility and social impact, etc. In addition, it will also be necessary to go through the various applicable statutory procedures and requirements, including those under the Country Parks Ordinance (Cap. 208), the Town Planning Ordinance (Cap. 131) and the Environmental Impact Assessment Ordinance (Cap. 499). Upon HKHS's completion of the studies, the Government will further consider the technical feasibility of the development proposals and the relevant policy issues.

Ends/Wednesday, June 28, 2017
Issued at HKT 15:00

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