Saturday, June 18, 2005

Decide Kai Tak's fate soon, board says

CHLOE LAI

Prominent members of the Town Planning Board - including its chairwoman - yesterday urged public consultation on the future of the old Kai Tak airport to be quickened, saying people were getting tired of the process.

Speaking at the first board meeting open to the public, chairwoman Rita Lau Ng Wai-lan, who is also the permanent secretary for housing, planning and lands, said: "Public consultation cannot go on forever.

"I hope you can give us a public consensus when we meet again."

She was referring to the Harbourfront Enhancement Committee's Kai Tak subcommittee's initial work to gauge public opinion on the future of the site.

Many members, including senior executives of two property developers, supported the senior official's stance.

Mrs Lau also expressed concern about the committee's finding that people want lower-density housing than the government had originally planned for at the site as they preferred "quality over quantity".

She said the site had a role to play in the long-term development of the city and housing should not be ignored.

The subcommittee presented to the board initial views it had gathered from the public between September and November last year. A major consensus was that there should be no more reclamation of land at the site.

The government was forced to redraw drafting plans for the 328-hectare site after the Court of Final Appeal ruled last year that harbour reclamation could only proceed if there was an overriding public need.

Under the previous plan, the government would have reclaimed 133 hectares of land and the resulting 461-hectare site would have housed 260,000 people.

The subcommittee has decided to immediately engage the public, instead of the usual top-down government consultation.

The subcommittee will go to relevant district councils and the public three times for their input, before the plan is redrawn.

Ms Lau said: " Hong Kong people are pragmatic. You must quickly give them something substantial; otherwise they will get fed up."

Tony Tse Wai-chuen, a board member, surveyor, and general manager of Henderson Land , said: "Time is important. Hence you need to balance public consultation and development."

Another board member, Francis Lui Yiu-tung, also deputy chairman of K Wah Construction, suggested the subcommittee establish short-term goals and start development.

Subcommittee chairman Chan Wai-kwan said: "We should embrace the openness of the process rather than considering it too troublesome."

The consultation also found the public wanted to keep the runway as it was an integral part of Kai Tak's aviation history.

Views on whether to build offices were divided, with developers preferring to leave office blocks in Kwun Tong and Kowloon Bay .

 

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Published in the South China Morning Post. Copyright (C) 2005. All rights reserved.