Following is a question by the Hon Mrs Regina Ip and a reply by the Secretary for Development, Ms Bernadette Linn, in the Legislative Council today (January 18):
In 2012, the Government conducted a feasibility study on the development planning for the future land use of the Ex-Lamma Quarry (the Quarry) Area located on the Lamma Island. The area under study, which was about 60 hectares in total, included a 20-ha platform area, a 1-kilometre shoreline, a 5-ha man-made lake, and the natural slopes in the vicinity. Subsequently, the study put forward three initial land use options for gathering public views. However, the relevant development planning has made no progress so far. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:
(1) as the Government has indicated that there is a shortage of land and it will consider all possible options to increase land supply, and given that back then the Government found the aforesaid land use options feasible, of the reasons why such options were subsequently shelved; and
(2) whether the Government will, in order to tie in with its measures to attract talents and strategic enterprises to Hong Kong, consider using the Quarry Area for building apartments for talents, so as to attract more talents from outside Hong Kong (including the persons-in-charge of strategic enterprises) to settle in Hong Kong; if so, of the details; if not, the reasons for that?
The Ex-Lamma Quarry (the Quarry), which comprises a 20-hectare platform area, 9 ha of woodland, a 5-ha man-made lake and a 1- kilometre shoreline, is located at the northern coast of Sok Kwu Wan, occupying an area of about 34 ha. After the Quarry has ceased operation, renovation thereon was completed in 2002. Since 2011, the site has been leased to a non-governmental organisation under a short term tenancy for non-profit making environmental education and wildlife activity centre.
Our reply to the two parts of the question raised by the Hon Mrs Regina Ip is as follows:
(1) In 2012, the Government conducted a feasibility study (the Study) on the future land use and project planning of the Quarry site to explore its development potential and the impacts of the proposed developments on surrounding areas and environment. At that time, the study covered an area of about 60 ha in total, including the Quarry site itself, the adjacent site, as well as the natural slopes and shorelines in the vicinity. To avoid generating adverse impacts on the local environment, the Study recommended confining future development to the about 20-ha platform area within the Quarry site, without affecting the man-made lake, the adjoining woodland and surrounding slopes.
The Study included a two-stage community engagement (CE). Stage one of CE mainly gathered public views on future development of the Quarry site and the three initial land use options proposed at that time, namely two options based on the "Housing" land use theme which could accommodate different population sizes and another one based on the "Tourism cum Housing" land use theme. Majority of the views received considered that the "Tourism cum Housing"-themed option more preferable. In view of this, stage two of CE had refined the said views, suggesting developments of 1 200 private residential units and 700 subsidised residential units which could accommodate a population of 5 000, and construction of an outdoor recreation centre and tourism facilities, etc.
A market sounding exercise was conducted subsequently to gauge the market sentiment of development and invited interested organisations to submit development proposals. At that time, the Government intended to actively making use of private developers' capacity for construction of the aforesaid public and private residential units, and provision of infrastructure and ancillary facilities. Hence, the concerned sounding out exercise was carried out based on such relatively aggressive approach. The views collected from the interviewees, including developers, hotel operators and non-governmental organisations of various sizes, revealed that the market was generally concerned about the lack of transport and infrastructure facilities on the Quarry site. Substantial investment of resources would be required to enhance the supporting infrastructure while the scale of housing development is relatively small. Taking into consideration the cost-effectiveness and financial viability, and low market interest to finance the construction of infrastructure facilities, the Government had not proceeded further to pursue the development proposal.
(2) Ferry services are the only existing external transport connection of Lamma Island, which rely primarily on two ferry routes travelling between Central, Yung Shue Wan, as well as Sok Kwu Wan. Capacities of existing infrastructure facilities, such as fresh water, sewage and roads, could not accommodate any new sizable developments. Owing to a lack of infrastructure support, the Quarry site can hardly be used for land supply in the short to medium term.
Nevertheless, under the multi-pronged land supply strategy, and as the Quarry site is not far away from the urban area of Hong Kong Island, we have not ruled out the possibility of developing the site. The findings of the previous market sounding exercise were based on the "Tourism cum Housing"-themed land use option. The proposed uses, in particular for residential use, would have heavier demand on infrastructure facilities, especially on transport infrastructure. Also, private developers are expected to bear the capital costs of those infrastructures. Given the huge investment, market response was not forthcoming, which is totally understandable. The Government plans to further examine land uses, development model, demands on infrastructure and supporting transport facilities, as well as the cost-effectiveness holistically. Based on the experience gained, this time we will explore mixed uses, and consider land uses which are less demanding on infrastructure, especially transport infrastructure, such as niche facilities for recreational uses or training purposes, and uses that would not generate much commuting to and from urban area. We will also examine whether the Government could provide infrastructure before land disposal. We aim to commence the study within this year.
We take note of Member's suggestion to use the Quarry site for building apartments for talents, and will take into consideration when examining future land uses of the site holistically in the future. Yet I wish to point out that apartments for talents should generally be located near the workplace; the Quarry site may not have an edge in this regard. In fact, the Government attaches great importance to providing various support to talents from outside Hong Kong. As announced in the Policy Address last year, more accommodation would be provided to innovation and technology (I&T) talents. Such would come from exploring the construction of a new InnoCell near the Science Park and accommodation facilities for talents at the Hong Kong-Shenzhen Innovation and Technology Park at the Lok Ma Chau Loop. We will allow greater planning flexibility in the planned San Tin Technopole to provide additional accommodation for I&T talents.
Ends/Wednesday, January 18, 2023
Issued at HKT 20:34