A motion calling for the government to consider introducing legislative measures to reduce screen-like buildings by regulating the density and height of development projects was vetoed in the legislature Wednesday.
The motion, raised a day after environmental protection groups protested against the auction of a West Kowloon site in the government's first land auction, passed by 13 votes to 10 in the geographical constituencies but was rejected 16-8 by representatives of functional constituencies.
Motion raiser Wong Kwok-hing, of the Federation of Trade Unions, said the screen-like building designs not only affect the city's airflow and aggravate the heat effect but also affect public hygiene and contribute to air pollution.
Wong said that while environmental concern groups had pointed out the West Kowloon site, which was put up for auction Tuesday, was the last air ventilation outlet for the packed West Kowloon area, the government ignored the call and opted instead for the revenue it could get from the sale.
The site, situated at Hoi Wang Road near Yau Ma Tei, was sold for HK$4 billion to a consortium lead by Sino Land.
"It is almost certain the land developers who purchased the site will opt for the maximum 140-meter height limit and construct a few 40-story-plus buildings. This will affect the air flow of the area and further worsen the air quality in Mong Kok and Yau Ma Tei," Wong said.
Instead of relying on the nonbinding Hong Kong Planning Standards and Guidelines, the government should enact legislation to limit the height and control the design of land development in the territory, Wong said.
Association of Democracy and People's Livelihood legislator Frederick Fung Kin-kee agreed with Wong's view that private developers would aim at maximizing profits instead of following the requirements stated in the guidelines.
"The absence of controls on building design and height merely paves the way for developers to utilize the highest allowable plot ratio to maximize their profits," Fung said.
"However, those who live in the shadows of such developments are the ones to suffer."
He said the government should, at least, strengthen the ventilation requirements on new buildings and structures to be built by the two railway companies - MTR Corporation and Kowloon-Canton Railway Corporation.
About 100 representatives from the Democratic Party, the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong and the Association for Democracy and People's Livelihood staged a protest Wednesday outside the entrance to the Legco building.
They called on the government to act on and resolve the problem. Secretary for Housing, Planning and Lands Michael Suen Ming-yeung said the government had already adopted several measures with regard to town planning.
These included the requirement of air ventilation assessments prior to the launching of any development project.
He said a quasi-government body like the Urban Renewal Authority had also established its own set of standards and guidelines concerning air ventilation, of which its Kwun Tong redevelopment project was one of the examples.
Suen said the government had no plan to enact legislation to prevent private land developers from building screen-like buildings, as each development site had different settings, surrounding environment and other related factors, and it would be inappropriate to use a single set of standards for all developments.