Next targets for housing

Authorities will look into developing land in the boundary zone near Shenzhen for commercial purposes and release New Territories North land earmarked for such plans for housing, says Financial Secretary Paul Chan Mo-po.

That will ease Hong Kong’s short-term land shortage and speed up the sourcing of land and housing supply.

In an exclusive interview with The Standard’s sister publication Sing Tao Daily, Chan said on the Hong Kong shore along the Shenzhen River a large piece of land in the boundary zone – from the new Liantang Port near Ta Kwu Ling to Mai Po Nature Reserve – has been classified as restricted area due to its ecological value.

Most of the land covers wetlands, ponds and the flight path of migrating and passage birds, but as the SAR steps up cooperation with Shenzhen, in particular at Qianhai and the Lok Ma Chau Loop, authorities will review the boundary area for development.

“We will evaluate which parts can be developed, and which parts to conserve,” Chan said. “If some of the areas are important to the ecology, we will fund conservation projects there. If some are not as ecologically important or have not been well conserved, we can develop those parts for other purposes.”

He said development in the boundary zone will be for industrial and commercial, as well as residential purposes. Chan added: “If possible, land in Kwu Tung North [in Fan Ling] and Hung Shui Kiu [in Yuen Long] originally planned for commercial purposes can be spared for residential use.

“From people’s perspective, living in Hung Shui Kiu, Kwu Tung and Fan Ling is closer than living in the boundary area.

“These places are all alongside existing transport infrastructure. In terms of community, with more people, the critical mass will be bigger, and the community can have better local facilities and services.”

In the past, the government’s planning also included providing residents employment opportunities within the area, “but at that time, the vision to cooperate with Shenzhen was not clear enough,” Chan said.

He said transportation on New Territories Northeast was inconvenient over the past decades, limiting development in the region.

But with the opening of the Liantang Port last year and the city’s outlook for closer cooperation with Shenzhen, authorities see more opportunities and benefits from developing the port’s adjacent areas, he said.

Chan said the city cannot only focus on the development of the south of Shenzhen River when planning because Hong Kong also needs to look at the development of Shenzhen to create synergistic development.

Asked if authorities will consider connecting Hong Kong’s railway with Shenzhen’s, Chan said with more new projects lining up with Shenzhen and the Pearl River Delta area, it is worth considering more convenient transportation within the region.

Over a decade ago, the government had proposed extending a railway from Qianhai to Hung Shui Kiu, which will eventually connect to the Hong Kong International Airport, but gave up on the idea because of the hefty cost.

The latest development plan in Qianhai covers eight times more land to a total of 3.88 square kilometers than when it was first announced, as Shenzhen authorities have spared one-third of the new areas for Hongkongers.

“So there will definitely be more frequent human and traffic flow between Qianhai and Hong Kong,” Chan said.

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