Press Statement on Walled Building Effect
In recent years, the issue of Wall Effect in urban area has aroused the concerns of Hong Kong people. Having reviewed the governmental monitoring system and urban planning mechanism, the Civic Party’s Action Agenda (see attached) proposed 12 measures to tackle the problem of Wall Effect and request the government to execute the measures with immediate effect.
Last Sunday, the environmental group Green Sense pointed out that, if there is no amendment on the terms of the leases, there would be high possibility that Wall Effect would happen on the 12 pieces of land in the application list for auction. Unfortunately, the Planning Department replied that there is no necessarily for any land on the auction application list to be review and denied the claims for further planning.
The Civic Party were puzzeled by the government’s response since the Chief Executive, Mr. Donald Tsang, had promised openly on the night of March 15 during the Election Forum that in view of solving the problem of Wall Effect, government would review the Outline Zoning Plans in each district again, especially the area with high density and suffered from wall effect and the next government would consult the public and go through the legal consultation procedure from bottom to top again in order to maintain the balance.
The government latest response was clearly contradicted with Chief Executive’s promise made one month ago. If the review was further delayed, meanwhile more lands were sold. Then, wall effect would be worsened and the loss of the society would be irreversible.
If there were strong public objection after the lands were auctioned, which finally make the developers cannot develop the lands according to the leases, which would be unfair to the developers. And it would result in a situation of no winner. All the parties, including citizens, developers and urban environment would all be loser.
This situation has happened in the case of
This kind of planning application does have a price. Without the voluntary aids by professional, such an application would cost hundred of thousand dollars. A rough assumption of the cost of planning applications on the 12 concerned lands in the application list for auction would be no less than 3 million dollars. If the government made advantage of the insufficient financial support of the effected residents, unfairness would be created and social discontent would be worsened.
The Civic Party dedicated to engage the dialogue between the government and NGOs and launch the review on planning from the bottom to the top. We urge the government to listen to the demands of the people and delay no more to solve the problem of wall effect.
THE CIVIC PARTY
Action AGENDA to TACKLE WALLED BUILDING EFFECTS
1. The government should immediately extend the application of [Technical Circular on Air Ventilation Assessment (TC1/06)] which is currently applicable to government developments only, to all projects of the Urban Renewal Authority and the Railway Corporations, with a view to finally extending to all public and private developments, to ensure that air ventilation of the district is not compromised.
2. The government should take a leading role to immediately review all large scale development projects, particularly those by the Urban Renewal Authority and the Railway Corporation wholly owned by the Government. Such review should ensure compliance with the requirements of the Air Ventilation Planning Guidelines of the Urban Design Guidelines (Chapter 11 of the Hong Kong Planning Standard & Guidelines), and the requirements of the Technical Circular on Air Ventilation Assessment. Where necessary, the development density should be reduced and design layout improved to mitigate wall effect.
3. The government should conduct a thorough review of all large scale projects which were approved but yet to develop, in order to improve the design such as increasing distance between buildings, creating visual and ventilation corridors, setting back developments from the site boundary, and creating open spaces at street level.
4. Property development should be based on planning decisions, not financial engineering. Rail, urban renewal, cultural venues and other public facilities should be financed through the capital works reserve fund and not through land exchange, development rights or additional plot ratio.
5. The government should thoroughly review the building density of all districts of the Metroplan Area and New Towns, particular harbour-front areas and land facing large open spaces. Specifically the sale of Government owned land should be avoided in high density districts, and where possible low intensity developments on these sites should be preserved or open space should be created to alleviate the inherent density increase from private property rights. For new sites, plot sizes should be reduced to create visual and air ventilation corridors at ground level. The amalgamation of sites should be limited, and developments should be set back to create public open spaces to improve air ventilation, sun light and make the city a more pleasant experience.
6. To review existing legislation, such as Buildings Ordinance Section 16, or through the provisions of the Practice Notes for Authorized Persons, to stipulate clear objective guidelines for professionals and the community to follow.
7. The government should review the current government structure and approval mechanism to minimize unnecessary requirements that are conducive to wall effect, e.g. large car-parking podium structure.
8. The government should depart from the current 2-Dimensional planning approach and adopt a 3-Dimensional planning approach instead. Physical models should be used both as a tool during the design process and a means to communicate with the general public during public engagement process. Whether the development density, building mass and disposition will cause wall effect can be envisaged at an early stage. Apart from Outline Zoning Plans (applicable to district) and General Building Plans (applicable to individual project site), a district-specific Urban Design Guidelines should be formulated.
9. The government should formulate appropriate guidelines by making reference to overseas experience: (i) Shanghai has requirement to limit the width of slab block buildings to not more than 60 metres; (ii) New York has requirement to limit street shadow area for buildings; (iii) Japan and Singapore have included height limit and massing control in the land lease or buildings regulations.
10. As demonstrated in Ngau Tau Kok Estate redevelopment, in planning for large scale development, the government should conduct sunlight, wind tunnel and micro-climatic analysis to minimize adverse effect of new developments.
11. To foster engagement of non-government professionals and the community in the planning process. To ensure planning has taken care of the community needs, the government should consider creating “Planning Aids Scheme” in order to assist affected citizens to obtain independent professional opinions and support community planning applications and representations.
12. An independent Town Planning Board is needed to ensure more sustainable planning and development decisions. The current conflict of interest whereby the Government is a significant financial stakeholder in the outcome, and in charge of the plan approval process, may not guarantee fair and balanced decision making to the benefit of the community at large.