Releasing development potential in the New Territories

July 21, 2021 10:58

The Hong Kong Government has been committed to developing the New Territories for years– Hung Shui Kiu and Kwu Tung North/Fanling North inclusive. Have you thought of living in these New Development Areas (NDAs)? Our Hong Kong Foundation (OHKF) proposes connecting the NDAs with Potential Development Areas (PDAs) in the vicinity to form a massive development belt for more economic, leisure and cultural activities. This can also provide more residential space to ease the shortage.

Hong Kong started developing new towns between 1970 and 2000. Earlier new towns needed seven and a half years on average for the first batch of residents to move in. In recent years, however, it takes approximately 17 years for NDAs to do so. The scarcity of land in Hong Kong necessitates thorough and comprehensive planning in land development. The scope of consideration ranges from the bearing capacity of infrastructure, land conditions, land use in the vicinity, compensation for occupants to relocation arrangements. Unfortunately, all these slow down the supply of housing. Three major difficulties are involved in the urbanization of the New Territories, namely the inadequate supply of infrastructure, the conflict of interest between stakeholders and developers, and mediocre planning.

To speed up land development and maximize land use, investment in infrastructure takes precedence. It is exemplified by the new roads and railways of the strategic transportation network of the Lantau Tomorrow Vision, which will connect the Northwestern part of the New Territories (NTNW) with the urban area. The development potential of NTNW is unlocked by the enhanced convenience of commuting. By the same token, the government also needs to actively invest in infrastructure for future new towns. Besides transportation, ancillary facilities such as sewage treatment works should also be given due consideration to effectively attract investment from enterprises for development and provide incentives for citizens to move in to live and work.

Facing the challenges involved in reapportioning brown fields, the government should offer specific and viable compensation policies catering for different groups of stakeholders. Proper relocation measures can speed up reapportioning and facilitate the commencement of construction works, saving precious time. Current development in the New Territories relies heavily on the government to take the lead. If the government can be open and receptive to the idea of allowing non-officially planned land to develop privately, the process can be accelerated.

Local land development often meets with environmental concerns. Hong Kong can study the innovative cases from Western countries where conservation and development can be complementary. Meanwhile, the government should review the statutory and administrative procedures currently adopted in the NDAs and amend the outdated ones. OHKF calls for the government to set up a task force and authorize senior officials to oversee NDA projects with a result-oriented management style.

The blueprint for developing the New Territories can focus on three themes, namely Culture & Technology Corridor, Modern Logistics & Business Circle, and Living & Recreation Space. In light of the limited living space in Hong Kong, the high cost of private housing and the long waiting time for public housing, OHKF recommends the government to optimize land use in the New Territories and speed up new town planning to turn them into livable towns for the betterment of Hong Kong.

-- Contact us at [email protected]

Managing Editor at Our Hong Kong Foundation.