Following is a question by the Hon Ronny Tong and a written reply by the Secretary for Development, Mr Paul Chan, in the Legislative Council today (June 11):
I have recently received complaints from some members of the public who allege that in an attempt to increase the supply of residential sites, the Government has been grabbing land blindly in various districts, including putting forward a proposal to rezone a site of some eight hectares at Pak Shek Kok (East) in Tai Po from "Other Specified Uses" annotated "Science Park" to "Residential (Group B) 6" for medium-density residential development (the rezoning proposal). Such members of the public have expressed the concerns that upon completion of the residential development on the site involved in the rezoning proposal, the resultant increase in population will overload the infrastructure and ancillary transport facilities in areas around Pak Shek Kok, and that the rezoning proposal will also hinder the development of the Hong Kong Science Park (Science Park). In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:
(1) whether it has conducted any comprehensive district consultation on the rezoning proposal; if it has, of the resident groups and local stakeholders consulted;
(2) given that some residential developments at Pak Shek Kok (East) are under construction, whether the Government has consulted the prospective residents of such residential developments on the rezoning proposal; if it has, of the mode of consultation;
(3) given that the site involved in the rezoning proposal was originally reserved for the Phase 4 Development of the Science Park, whether the Government consulted the tenants of the Science Park on the rezoning proposal; if it did, when such consultation was conducted and of the views of the tenants; whether the Government has reserved another site for the expansion of the Science Park; if it has, of the details; if not, the reasons for that; and
(4) of the projected number of residents upon completion of the residential developments on the site involved in the rezoning proposal; whether it has made any improvement to the infrastructure and ancillary transport facilities in areas around Pak Shek Kok in light of such increase in population and the future development of the Science Park; if it has, of the details?
To cope with the continuous housing needs of the public and achieve the new housing target of providing 470 000 public and private housing units in the coming 10 years, the Government is adopting a multi-pronged strategy to increase land supply in the short, medium and long term, through the continued and systematic implementation of a series of measures. In the Policy Address and the relevant papers submitted to the Legislative Council, the Government has mapped out in detail the multi-pronged land supply measures, including making optimal use of developed land as far as practicable and creating new land for development. The 2013 Policy Address states that policy bureaux should act decisively to optimise the use of land and make available as soon as possible sites for housing development or other uses that meet the more pressing needs in the community when the originally intended uses of the sites are not required anymore.
The Pak Shek Kok site was originally reserved for the expansion of the Hong Kong Science Park (Science Park) by the Hong Kong Science and Technology Parks Corporation (HKSTPC). Nevertheless, the Science Park Phase 3 will be completed by stage from this year to 2016. Upon completion, the gross floor area of the Science Park will increase by about 105 000 square metres to meet the demand for floor area arising from research and development (R&D) activities in the foreseeable future. In parallel, HKSTPC is looking for ways to make further optimal use of its existing land to meet the future development needs of the Science Park. Under such circumstances, the Commerce and Economic Development Bureau considers that the site is not needed for the expansion of the Science Park in the short to medium term. The Government will closely monitor the occupancy rate of the Science Park, and the Planning Department (PlanD) will assist in identifying other suitable sites for R&D and related uses as and when necessary. In the long term, sites have been reserved in the Kwu Tung North New Development Area (NDA), Lok Ma Chau Loop area and Hung Shui Kiu NDA for such uses.
Given that the Pak Shek Kok site is not needed for the expansion of the Science Park in the short to medium term while the community has a pressing need for housing land, and that land in other areas has been planned for R&D and related uses in future, the Government considers it imperative to make optimal use of the Pak Shek Kok site for development as soon as possible instead of leaving it vacant for a long time. Upon review of the development potential of the site, the Government considers it appropriate to rezone the Pak Shek Kok site to "Residential (Group B) 6" for medium-density private residential development. The rezoning proposal is being taken forward in accordance with the statutory planning procedures.
I reply to the four-part question as follows:
(1) to (3) PlanD consulted the Environment, Housing and Works Committee (EHWC) of the Tai Po District Council (TPDC) on February 13, 2014 on the rezoning of the Pak Shek Kok site. EHWC had no objection to the proposed rezoning of the site for residential use, but some DC members raised concerns about the long-term development of the Science Park and the local public transport facilities at the meeting.
On February 21, 2014, PlanD submitted the rezoning proposal, together with the views of TPDC, to the Rural and New Town Planning Committee (the Committee) of the Town Planning Board (TPB) for consideration. With the agreement of the Committee to the rezoning proposal, the Draft Pak Shek Kok (East) Outline Zoning Plan No. S/PSK/12, which had incorporated the amendment item, was published for exhibition from March 7, 2014 to May 7, 2014 in accordance with section 5 of the Town Planning Ordinance by TPB. During the publication period, the public and the parties concerned may make representations to TPB. TPB will process all representations and comments received in accordance with the Town Planning Ordinance and the established procedures. The Outline Zoning Plan together with all the representations and comments received will then be submitted to the Chief Executive-in-Council for approval.
Separately, the Innovation and Technology Commission (ITC) met Hon Charles Mok and representatives of the tenants of the Science Park on May 30, 2014 to seek the views of the tenants on the rezoning proposal. ITC explained the reasons for releasing the Pak Shek Kok site for other developments and the Government's measures on providing office/laboratory floor areas for R&D uses in the short to medium term. The tenants' representatives indicated that a written submission would be made to ITC which would reflect their views to PlanD.
(4) The Government estimates that the Pak Shek Kok site is capable of providing about 3 400 residential units, accommodating a population of around 9 100. When reviewing whether the site is suitable for housing development, the Government has made an overall consideration of a series of relevant factors, including the location of the site, local characteristics, traffic, environment, recreational and community facilities, as well as urban design, etc. The relevant government departments, including the Transport Department (TD), Environmental Protection Department and Leisure and Cultural Services Department, are of the view that the rezoning proposal will not cause significant adverse impacts upon the area in terms of traffic, environment, and recreational and community facilities.
Regarding supporting transport facilities, there is currently a public transport interchange in the area serving the local residents. According to TD, the existing traffic arrangement in Pak Shek Kok allows drivers to route through Chong San Road or Science Park Road directly to Tolo Highway for going to other destinations. The Tolo Highway is an express highway and the section near Pak Shek Kok is a dual carriageway with four lanes. According to TD's assessment, the relevant section of the highway is capable of coping with the peak-hour traffic arising from current and planned development projects.
In addition, about 10.6 hectares of land in the Pak Shek Kok area are zoned "Open Space", including the waterfront promenade along Tolo Harbour adjacent to the residential areas and Science Park, which can meet the needs of the existing and additional population. A piece of land within the area has been reserved for school use. Government, Institution and Community facilities, including a fire station cum ambulance depot and a fire fighting tug pier, have also been planned in the northern part of the area. The community facilities in Tai Po, including libraries and clinics, can also meet the needs of the residents in Pak Shek Kok.
Ends/Wednesday, June 11, 2014
Issued at HKT 14:30