Following is a question by the Hon Leung Yiu-chung and a reply by the Secretary for Development, Mrs Carrie Lam, in the Legislative Council today (May 13):
Although the Government had announced in November 2008 the lowering of the development densities of the above-station property development projects at the Nam Cheong Station and the Yuen Long Station along the West Rail, some residents nearby still relayed to me recently that the development densities of such development projects were still too high. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:
(a) whether the Government and its project agent, the MTR Corporation Limited (MTRCL), have ascertained if there are still residents nearby and concern groups having reservations about or objecting the revised schemes of such development projects at present; if so, of the details;
(b) whether the Government and MTRCL have any plan to enhance communication with the residents nearby, so as to ascertain if they generally support the revised schemes; and
(c) whether the Government will assess again if the development densities of such development projects may be lowered further; if it will, of the details; if not, the reasons for that?
The original Master Layout Plans of the property development projects at the Nam Cheong Station and the Yuen Long Station along the West Rail were approved by the Town Planning Board (TPB) in 2004 and 2005 respectively. In the 2007-08 Policy Address, the Chief Executive (CE) announced that one of the important tasks of the Government of the current term was to review the relevant outline zoning plans in a step-by-step manner and to lower the development density as appropriate, with a view to creating a better living environment for our people. The CE also mentioned that the Government would review the approved schemes of the above-station property development projects at the Nam Cheong Station and the Yuen Long Station to address the concerns of the local residents and the District Councils about the development densities of the two projects. Thereafter, the Government and the MTR Corporation Limited (MTRCL), i.e. the Government's agent for above-station property development projects of the West Rail, carried out a comprehensive review on the design of the Nam Cheong Station and the Yuen Long Station projects. We had seriously considered public views and taken into account the consideration to optimise the use of housing land to meet the society's demand, in announcing revised schemes in November last year.
In brief, under the revised scheme for the Nam Cheong Station, two towers will be deleted and the total gross floor area (GFA) will be reduced by 18%. The total plot ratio will be reduced from 8 to 6.6 and the number of residential units will be reduced by 926 (or 22% of the original number). The revised scheme has also adopted the design features of other buildings with a view to improving the air ventilation and the visual impact of the properties on the district.
As for the Yuen Long Station, the revised scheme has also proposed to delete two blocks and reduce the total GFA by 15%. The total plot ratio will be reduced from 4.64 to 3.93 and the number of residential units will be reduced by 456 (or 21% of the original number).
Generally speaking, the Hon Leung's question concerns the consultation carried out by the Government on the above two development projects and the latest progress of the projects. Our consolidated reply to the three-part question is as follows:
(a) and (b) When we decided to review the scale of development of the two projects in 2007, we meant exactly to address the earlier concerns expressed by the District Councils and residents' organisations. After the revised schemes were announced, the Development Bureau (DEVB), the MTRCL, the Planning Department (PlanD) and the Transport Department (TD) attended the Shum Shui Po District Council meeting on January 6, 2009 to brief the District Councillors on the proposed revised scheme of the property development project at the Nam Cheong Station along the West Rail. Apart from expressing its wish for a further reduction in development density, the District Council specifically requested increasing the breezeways from two under the revised scheme to three. In response to the request, the MTRCL further amended the proposed revised scheme after the meeting. Under the latest scheme, three breezeways will be provided. On March 10, the DEVB issued a letter to the Shum Shui Po District Council to explain the amended scheme in detail.
The Transport and Housing Affairs Committee of the Sham Shui Po District Council discussed the amended scheme of the development project at the Nam Cheong Station at its meeting on April 16, 2009. Some members supported that consideration should be given to making the above-station development at the Nam Cheong Station compatible with the local environment, and having the relevant development started promptly after consulting professional advice, with a view to optimising the use of land resources and creating job opportunities. But some members hoped that when the TPB examined the planning application regarding the above-station development at the Nam Cheong Station, due consideration should be given to other proposals, including further reducing the building height and development intensity, and rezoning part of the land to open space or community facilities etc.
Regarding the Yuen Long Station development project, the villagers (especially the "Joint Meeting Group of Seven Villages" comprising Nam Pin Wai, Tung Tau Tsuen, Tsoi Uk Tsuen, Ying Lung Wai, Shan Pui Tsuen, Wong Uk Tsuen and Tai Wai Tsuen) in the vicinity of Yuen Long Station and the residents of Sun Yuen Long Centre (SYLC) have been in touch with us to express their concerns over the project both before and after the announcement of the revised scheme. On March 18, 2009, the DEVB, the MTRCL and the PlanD attended the Executive Committee meeting of the Shap Pat Heung Rural Committee and briefed its members on the proposed revised scheme of the development project at the Yuen Long Station and listened to the villagers' views. Village representatives from the "Joint Meeting Group of Seven Villages" were also invited to the meeting. The DEVB, the MTRCL and the PlanD also attended the meeting of the owners' incorporation of the SYLC on the evening of March 23 to brief its members on the proposed revised scheme and listen to their views.
Thereafter, at the meeting of the Yuen Long District Council (YLDC) on April 23, 2009, the DEVB, the MTRCL, the PlanD and the TD briefed the District Councillors on the proposed revised scheme. The District Council requested the Government at the meeting to reconsider and review the plot ratio of the above-station development projects at the Yuen Long Station, to reduce the scale of the development projects further and to increase the greening area and room for air ventilation.
As can be seen from the above, the Government and the MTRCL have maintained close liaison with the relevant District Councils and the local communities. However, we need to understand that it will not be easy to achieve a general consensus on such a controversial issue. The aspirations of the residents living in the vicinity of the property developments to further reduce the number, the height and bulk of the buildings are understandable, but we can only strive to strike a balance in the best interest of the community under the various objective constraints.
(c) The MTRCL has submitted the amended scheme of the above-station property development project at the Nam Cheong Station that allows three breezeways to the Metro Planning Committee (MPC) of the TPB for consideration. The scheme has just been approved by the MPC on May 8, 2009 with conditions requiring the MTRCL to further improve the form and disposition of the buildings, with a view to further increasing the distances between towers and widening the breezeways.
Regarding the Yuen Long Station development project, we are now considering and examining the views and concerns expressed by the villagers, local residents and the District Council. We will give our response to the YLDC in due course.
Ends/Wednesday, May 13, 2009
Issued at HKT 15:46