URA launches public consultation on Kwun Tong redevelopment project
Local leaders and residents of the Kwun Tong community gathered
together today (Friday) to express their vision and aspirations for
creating a modern town centre to the Urban Renewal Authority
They were among the members of the URA's Kwun Tong District Advisory Committee (DAC) which met for the first time to discuss a multi-billion-dollar project proposal for a comprehensive redevelopment of the Kwun Tong Town Centre. The committee members also include Legislative Councillors, bankers, academics, social workers and professionals from various fields.
The Chairman of the DAC, Professor David Lung, who is also the Chairman of the Planning, Development and Conservation Committee of the URA Board, said, "It was a very lively and fruitful meeting. Members were constructive in putting forward a lot of suggestions on the positioning of the future town centre and the guiding principles for ensuring that this massive project will be viable, sustainable and serving as an anchor to catalyze the revitalization of Kwun Tong district."
Professor Lung said the committee was supportive of adopting a comprehensive redevelopment mode for the town centre. "Residents complain that their homes and surrounding, particularly the sewage problem, are in an appalling state; transport infrastructure are old and uncomfortable; and most community facilities are either obsolete or lacking," he said.
The committee took the view that the Kwun Tong project should target at three fundamental objectives:
(a) to help the owner-occupiers to improve their living conditions by enabling them to find new homes under the Home Purchase Allowance policy, i.e. cash compensation pitched at the market value of a seven-year-old notional flat (commonly known as the seven-year rule), as well as;
(b) to provide Kwun Tong with a modern town centre that offers not only commercial and residential developments but also comprehensive public facilities and amenities, as well as a public transport interchange serving Kwun Tong and the rest of East Kowloon; and
(c) to ensure the vitality of the area be maintained and enhanced and that the project is financially viable and sustainable.
Members also raised a number of practical issues for future discussions to come. These issues include:
- strengthening co-operation with other government departments on project planning and implementation so as to position Kwun Tong Town Centre project as an activity hub for Eastern Kowloon region;
- measures to maintain the provisioning of transport and community services to the district during redevelopment, and
- ways to cater for needs of the affected ethnic minority groups.
The URA's Managing Director, Mr. Billy Lam said that the Kwun
Tong project, occupying a site area of about 5.3 hectares, would be
the largest redevelopment project ever undertaken by the URA.
"Because of the immense impact of the project, the URA will pay
special attention to planning and urban design, and would listen
carefully the public's views and suggestions, particularly on
strategic positioning and implementation method thus ensuring that
the town centre would be able to retain its vibrancy throughout the
transitional process during redevelopment and become the activity
hub of Eastern Kowloon after redevelopment.
The URA's Executive Director for Planning and Development, Mr. Andrew Lam, said there were a number of fundamental planning issues that had to be resolved during the public consultation process. Among the issues are:
- to replace the now inconveniently dispersed and obsolete transport facilities with an integrated and efficient infrastructure;
- to mitigate adverse impact of the air and noise pollution generated by the old industrial buildings to the town centre;
- to introduce a buffer zone between the overhead mass transit railway and the town centre to minimize the level of noise pollution;
- to provide more public open space and greenery while preserving the old trees in the Yue Man Square rest garden and;
- reprovisioning and enhancement of the government, institutional and community facilities currently available.
Professor Lung said, "Members of the committee have thoroughly
examined the above issues and made valuable suggestions, such as
redeveloping the town centre into a hub for public transport,
business activities and shopping as well as a cultural and
entertainment regional centre, setting up an urban oasis, launching
comprehensive development in stages, introducing the concept of
sustainable development and strengthening community involvement,
Meanwhile, the URA has commissioned a University of Hong Kong research team led by HKU professor Law Chi-kwong to carry out a community aspiration survey in the wider Kwun Tong area. At the meeting today, Professor Law explained the framework and content of the survey which is expected to be completed at the end of next month.
The objectives of the survey are to examine the aspirations of people from all walks of life, including those who live, work and do shopping in Kwun Tong as well as visitors. It will assess how their views should be reflected in the future city planning and development of the town centre. Some 1,300 members of the public will be randomly selected for interviews. District Council members, public light bus associations, resident groups, business operators, and ethnic groups and art and culture bodies will be invited to take part in focus group meetings for in-depth discussions on a wide range of subjects.
The Kwun Tong Town Centre proposal was first announced by the former Land Development Corporation (LDC) in early 1998, along with 24 redevelopment projects located in other old districts of Hong Kong. Not long afterwards the property market collapse plunged the LDC into financial difficulties and as a result all the announced projects were held in abeyance until the Government set up the URA in 2001. Meantime, hundreds of owners and residents at the Kwun Tong Town Centre, where all the 23 buildings were built in the 60's, have expressed great anxiety about the worsening dilapidation in the area and have staged many petitions to the Government and the URA for speeding up the redevelopment project. The URA, acting in accordance with the Government's Urban Renewal Strategy published in November 2001, has included all 25 "ex-LDC" projects, including Kwun Tong town Centre, in its first Five-year Corporate Plan ending March 2007.