LCQ22: Public walkways
Notwithstanding a government policy that the Government will not construct footbridges connecting private developments, the Government sought funding approval from the Finance Committee of this Council in May this year to construct a footbridge connecting private developments in Tsuen Wan District. Moreover, the Government announced in January this year a new policy of waiving land premium for land lease modification for provision of pedestrian links to encourage the private sector to provide pedestrian links on private land. In addition, the Government launched the Universal Accessibility Programme in 2012 to install barrier-free access facilities, such as lifts, at public walkways, including footbridges, etc. in various districts. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:
(1) whether the policy that the Government will not construct footbridges connecting private developments is still in force now; if so, of the circumstances under which exceptional treatment is allowed;
(2) as I have learnt that the Government has refused to provide footbridges and lifts for the residents of quite a number of areas in Kowloon East, including Po Pui Court in Kwun Tong and Chuk Yuen North Estate in Wong Tai Sin, on the ground that certain road sections involved private land ownerships, whether the Government will reconsider providing such facilities for the residents of the areas concerned; if it will, of the details; if not, the reasons for that;
(3) apart from waiving land premium, whether the Government will consider providing financial support or meeting the expenses on the operation and maintenance of the relevant pedestrian links, so as to further encourage the private sector to provide pedestrian links such as footbridges and lifts on private land for the convenience of local residents; if it will, of the details; if not, the reasons for that; and
(4) as some residents of Ngau Tau Kok have relayed that in Lok Wah North Estate, there is no barrier-free access leading to Chun Wah Road, On Kay Court and Jordan Valley Playground, and they therefore hope that the Government will provide a lift which directly reaches Chun Wah Road or install a lift next to the existing footbridge, whether the Government will include such items in the Universal Accessibility Programme; if it will, of the details?
My reply to the various parts of the Hon Wu Chi-wai's question is as follows:
(1) When using public funds to construct public footbridge links, the Government will consider the necessity of such projects on the basis of a host of factors, including the anticipated pedestrian flows, road safety, availability of alternative walkways, cost effectiveness and public views, etc. Whether the footbridge will be connected to private developments is not a primary factor for consideration.
In some cases, staircases and lifts of public footbridges which are constructed on public footpaths will reduce the space of footpaths. If the Government considers it necessary to maintain the space of footpaths or has full justifications for constructing public footbridge facilities connecting to private developments, provided that it is operationally and technically feasible the Government may specify such requirement in the Conditions of Sale, arrange gazettal of the project under the Roads (Works, Use and Compensation) Ordinance (Cap. 370), or add the requirements when the opportunity arises at the time of the lease modification of existing developments.
Regarding the planned footbridge connected to private developments in Tsuen Wan mentioned in the question, the decision to construct the footbridge is made by the Government having regard to the above factors. The footbridge concerned will connect Tsuen Wan Plaza, footpath on Hoi Shing Road and adjacent landscaping area, as well as Skyline Plaza. As mentioned in the paper submitted to the Public Works Subcommittee of the Finance Committee (Item No. PWSC(2016-17)5) by the Transport and Housing Bureau in April this year, the footbridge can relieve the congestion at the existing pedestrian crossing at Hoi Shing Road, and minimise potential risks due to a shared use of the same road by pedestrians and vehicles. It will also enhance the existing local public footbridge network and strengthen the connection between the northern and southern parts of the area. The footbridge has long been included in the planned pedestrian facilities of Tsuen Wan Central Outline Development Plan. It has also been stipulated in the land leases of Tsuen Wan Plaza and Skyline Plaza that a connection point should be provided at the two lots concerned for future footbridge and that the private landowners have to provide public access round the clock for connection to the public walkway system in the area so as to give full play to the functions of the footbridge.
(2) We understand that the suggestions raised by the Hon Wu involve lift retrofitting works at staircases within the boundary of Po Pui Court in Kwun Tong and Chuk Yuen North Estate in Wong Tai Sin. Po Pui Court in Kwun Tong is under the "Home Ownership Scheme", and Chuk Yuen North Estate in Wong Tai Sin is under the "Tenants Purchase Scheme". The walkways where the proposed lifts are located fall entirely within privately-owned land. Based on consideration of principles and to ensure the proper use of public funds, we are of the view that lift retrofitting works within privately-owned land should not be implemented by the Government.
(3) The Government understands that there is increasing expectation from the public that the pedestrian network in the city should be convenient, pleasant and comfortable, and should reach out to more potential users by connecting with nearby developments and other existing walkway systems. The Government acknowledges the need to review the existing policy and will consider adopting a more pragmatic approach to facilitate proposals from private owners for early provision of planned pedestrian links to enhance walkability and promote the quality of living. As such, the Chief Executive announced in 2016 Policy Address a trial scheme to waive the land premium payable for lease modification for provision of the pedestrian links under prescribed conditions, which is intended to provide a suitable incentive to private owners, so as to help achieve a comprehensive pedestrian network for the overall benefits of the community.
The Government initially takes Kowloon East (KE), particularly for the built-up areas of Kowloon Bay Business Area and Kwun Tong Business Area, as a pilot area under the Energizing Kowloon East (EKE) policy initiative to facilitate the transformation of KE and for which two pedestrian environment improvement studies on construction of a comprehensive pedestrian network have already been initiated by the EKE Office. As the trial scheme has just commenced, the Government does not have plans at the present stage to launch supporting measures other than waiving land premium. To determine the effectiveness of the trial scheme in KE, the Government expects to conduct a mid-term review in 2018 and may suitably consider the issues concerned at that time. As the trial scheme is intended to facilitate the provision of pedestrian link by private owners, it does not have any conflict with the existing arrangements of the Government on the construction of public pedestrian walkways.
(4) To further take forward the Universal Accessibility Programme, the Government will, from the fourth quarter of this year to the second quarter of 2017, again invite the District Councils (DCs) to further nominate not more than three existing walkways in each district for the next phase of the programme. The walkways eligible for consideration by the DCs will no longer be confined to public walkways maintained by the Highways Department (HyD), provided that the following criteria are met to ensure proper use of public funds:
(i) the walkways span across public roads maintained by the HyD;
(ii) they are open for public access from public roads at all times;
(iii) the walkways are not privately owned; and
(iv) the parties responsible for the management and maintenance of these walkways agree to such lift retrofitting proposals and are willing to cooperate with the Government during the implementation of the said lift retrofitting works as well as the subsequent management and maintenance works of the lifts.
The lifts installed would be maintained by the HyD.
If the footbridge across Chun Wah Road near Lok Wah North Estate satisfies the above criteria, the DC concerned can consider selecting it as one of the items in the next phase of the programme.
Ends/Wednesday, November 2, 2016
Issued at HKT 18:16
Issued at HKT 18:16