WWF urges the next Chief Executive to adopt a “brownfield first” policy and stop brownfield expansion
A new study conducted by WWF-Hong Kong shows that, despite the persistent decline in the growth of the logistic sector, the number of applications to the Town Planning Board (TPB) for brownfield uses remains high. The TPB appears to treat the applications increasingly favourably as the approval rate has surged from 20 per cent in 2001 to almost 90 per cent in recent years.
WWF believes that the TPB Guidelines No. 13E 1, which were issued to cater for the need of the blooming logistic industry in early 2000, are outdated and abet the conversion of valuable plots of land, which could be used for housing, into brownfield sites. WWF urges the next Chief Executive and the administration to adopt a “brownfield first” policy to ease Hong Kong’s housing shortage, and rescind the TPB Guidelines No. 13E to stop brownfields from further expanding. The government should also speed up the resumption of brownfield sites and devise a fair compensation mechanism for planned development projects.
Among the 192 potential housing sites proposed by the Development Bureau in recent years, 78 involved “Green Belt” sites. This strategy to increase land supply by developing on “Green Belt” sites rather than brownfields is ill-conceived.
“Compared to ‘Green Belt’ sites, brownfield sites are the better option for housing development, as the former serve as a buffer zone to protect our precious country parks from an invasion of development.” says Dr Michael Lau, WWF-Hong Kong’s Director for Wetland Conservation. “We are happy to see the government’s plan to study the current usage and operation of brownfields in the New Territories but the resumption of brownfields for housing development has to be quickened.”
The study also revealed that a large proportion (78 per cent) of the estimated 1,200 hectares of brownfield sites – which has been used as parking lots and container storage – in northern New Territories falls outside the “Open Storage” zones. These deviations from the Outline Zoning Plan (OZP) can be attributed to unauthorized development and illegal occupation of government lands. The TPB also played a role in approving large extent of brownfield and it seems to have treated brownfield applications more favourably with the approval rate climbing from 20 per cent in 2001 to almost 90 per cent in recent years.
Ken Chan, Research Officer for WWF-Hong Kong, says: “The Town Planning Board’s Guidelines No. 13E and the earlier versions were originally promulgated in response to the blooming logistics industry which led to a surge in demand for lands for open storage and port back-up. Despite the decline in the logistic sector in the interim eight years, the guidelines continue to facilitate brownfield use and beget the TPB to treat brownfield applications more favourably. These guidelines are outdated and incompatible with the public interest.”
WWF calls for the government to
i) Reject all new brownfield applications and strengthen law enforcement on all current brownfield sites to prevent their further expansion;
ii) Rescind TPB Guidelines No. 13E so that the TPB can properly exercise its role to prevent unsuitable brownfield applications;
iii) Speed up the resumption of brownfield sites and devise a fair compensation mechanism for planned development projects;
iv) Establish an open and comprehensive land use database to enhance transparency in decision making and facilitate holistic urban planning.
1. TPB PG-No. 13E: Application for Open Storage and Port Back-up Uses under Section 16 of the Town Planning Ordinance (http://www.info.gov.hk/tpb/en/forms/Guidelines/pg13e_e.pdf)