Call for more people to step into park study

Top News | Sum Lok-kei 19 May 2017

A feasibility study for building public housing and homes for the elderly on the edges of two country parks should include how the general public views the concept, a Housing Society member said yesterday.

The administration announced on Wednesday that the society had been asked to carry out technical and ecological studies into the development potential of 40 hectares at Tai Lam and Shui Chuen O on the fringes of Tai Lam and Ma On Shan country parks.

Speaking on radio, society member Bernard Lim Wan-fung said from a technical point of view medium-density housing and elderly-friendly facilities could be built in the areas. But apart from the ecological value of the land, Lim said, the study should take in concerns of nearby residents, users of country parks and environmentalists.

Lim said the Housing Society will have more "maneuverability" in conducting the study than others as it is a non-governmental organization. As an NGO the society can distance itself from government policy goals.

The study should be impartial and accept a variety of opinions to compile an objective report, Lim said, adding he was not informed about the society's role before the announcement.

Country and Marine Parks Board chairman Tang King-shing also said he had been in the dark about the study. But the former police commissioner denied his board was bypassed.

"We are an advisory entity, and as the board's chairman it would be inappropriate for me to comment," Tang said.

The question of developing country parks is controversial, he added, and the study could help people better understand the issues.

Shih Wing-ching, who set up Centaline Property Agency, said a balance had to be struck between needs for homes and conservation. He called for planners to redraw boundaries of country parks and "trade land" by removing areas suitable for housing development and replacing them with tracts of higher ecological value. This would be good for people and the environment.

Secretary for Development Eric Ma Siu-cheung meanwhile rejected claims the administration "worked around" the Legislative Council in setting up the project.

"The discussion is in an early stage," Ma said. "We hope the data will enable the public to discuss it in a scientific manner."

The study will likely take 18 months and cost more than HK$10 million, the society estimated.

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