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Following is a question by the Hon Jeffrey Lam and a written reply by the Secretary for Development, Mr Paul Chan, in the Legislative Council today (July 3):
The Chief Executive has mentioned in the 2013 Policy Address that Hong Kong can examine the development of underground spaces as a source of land supply. Regarding the development of underground spaces (excluding rock caverns), will the Government inform this Council:
(a) whether the Government has commenced any feasibility study or planning work on the development of underground spaces at various selected sites; if so, of the details; if not, the reasons for that;
(b) whether the Government has made reference to the examples of developing underground spaces into pedestrianised streets, car parks and stadiums in foreign countries; whether it has assessed the types of uses of the underground spaces which are more suitable to be developed in Hong Kong; and
(c) whether the Government will conduct studies on the development of underground shopping malls/business cities in those major development projects (including the West Kowloon Cultural District and the Kai Tak Development area) the works for which have not yet commenced at present?
Nowadays, the urban areas in Hong Kong have been densely developed with very limited land for new developments. The shortage in land supply has affected our competitiveness. In view of this, the Chief Executive has suggested in the 2013 Policy Address to develop underground spaces in the urban areas as one of the viable sources of land supply.
In fact, Hong Kong has been using underground spaces for public and commercial facilities for many years. However, most of them were associated with individual development projects, such as basements and car parks of shopping centres, as well as Mass Transit Railway (MTR) station development. In recent years, a relatively large scale example is the underground passage connecting the Tsim Sha Tsui and Tsim Sha Tsui East MTR stations and the surrounding shopping centres. However, in order to develop underground spaces strategically, we need to further review the relevant policies, regulations and administrative measures with a view to enhancing the use of underground space resources more systematically.
Our answers to the three parts of the question are as follows:
(a) and (b) Since the Chief Executive suggested in the 2013 Policy Address to develop underground spaces in the urban areas as a viable source of land supply, we have been actively preparing for commencing a study on “Underground Space Development in the Urban Areas” to further explore the potential of developing underground spaces in the built-up areas of Hong Kong. We have preliminarily collected and analysed some overseas and local examples of using underground spaces in the urban areas to identify the development opportunities and constraints of the relevant projects. We are now drafting the consultancy brief based on the main objectives of the study, with a view to creating more urban space for development, and enhancing connectivity of the urban areas (including new towns) through linking of existing and planned buildings and facilities with underground developments. The study will identify some representative areas for detailed assessments. We will soon conduct selection of consultants, and plan to commence the study the soonest in end 2013. Through the study, we will explore the suitable uses for further developing underground spaces in the urban areas, including commercial facilities such as shopping arcades, underground streets and car parks etc.
(c) The Government has embodied the element of enhanced use of underground spaces in the planning of the West Kowloon Cultural District (WKCD) and the Kai Tak Development area.
The WKCD Development Plan was based on Foster + Partners’ “City Park” Conceptual Plan, in which the cultural and art facilities are integrated with other facilities with a view to increasing the vibrancy of the cultural district. Taking into account the need for optimising the use of land resources, the Development Plan places the vehicular transport network of the WKCD underground.
With a flexible use of underground spaces, more above ground spaces could be made available for public enjoyment and pedestrian passage. The statutory planning procedures of the Development Plan have been completed in January this year. The approved Development Plan has incorporated the views and suggestions given by the public and the stakeholders in the public engagement exercise.
As regards the Kai Tak Development area, in order to enhance the community and cultural linkage with the nearby areas, the Government has proposed to develop two Underground Shopping Streets in the “Kai Tak Outline Zoning Plan” to connect Kowloon City and San Po Kong with the Kai Tak Station of the Shatin to Central Link under construction with a view to enhancing the integration of the new and the old districts. The Underground Shopping Streets are at the planning stage and the implementation mechanism needs to be further studied.