Urban Planning Committee members criticize plans for Zone A

The Urban Planning Committee (CPU) gathered for a plenary meeting yesterday with several topics on the agenda, among them the presentation of projects and urban condition of seven plots of land located in Zone A of the new plots of land. Of all the topics discussed during the meeting, this matter garnered particular concern and discussion.

The presentation was addressed by several critics from many of the committee members: Mak Soi Kun, Wu Chou Kit, Chan Tak Seng, Manuel Wu Ferreira, Paul Tse and Rui Leão, who expressed open criticism as to the way the government is leading the process.

Most of the critics discussed the planning regarding the accessibilities and transport-
related facilities, with several others claiming that the “paper planning” without “on-site” visits or model forecasting has resulted in poor outcomes and in a “lack of understanding” of what the real project will look like.

On this topic, the committee member and appointed lawmaker Wu remarked on the need to know exactly what is planned regarding the transport hub, as well as the Light Rail Transit (LRT) facilities and many other aspects, calling on the Land, Public Works and Transport Bureau (DSSOPT) and on the Transport Bureau (DSAT) to clarify such plans.

In reply, the representatives of DSSOPT noted that there are plans for that area: “We will have four transport management centers in four different areas of Zone A,” a representative from the Bureau said, adding, “these centers will pay support to the LRT so they will be placed near the LRT Stations and also on the central axis of the area and on the peripheral main avenue.” “Since these facilities will depend mostly on the LRT and we don’t know yet where the LRT stations will be located, we are depending on that part in order to develop more on such facilities’ projects.”

Manuel Ferreira weighed in on the topic, noting, “that is exactly the problem: we don’t know, we don’t have information, and if we don’t have information we will have many difficulties to plan,” he said. “When is the Master Plan going to be created?” he asked, before remarking that such a plan is the essential part that will allow for “proper urban planning.” “An urban plan is not about building height quotas, shadow projection and anti-fire rules,” adding that the blueprints presented are missing many other infrastructures like the fuel reservoir park, the waste water treatment plant, and so on.

The same member also questioned the real needs of housing in the area, which plans to include a total of 28,000 public housing units and another 4,000 from the private sector, calling on the government to take “this opportunity to do general planning instead of a partial planning.”

Remarking on the same topic was member Tse, who said, “we only have figures on the number of housing units or the public and private sector to use as a reference; nothing else. I don’t know where […] the market [is], where […] the schools [are], etc. I have been only listening to government slogans on the topic.”  “We have already made mistakes many times before; I don’t want to continue to fall on the same mistakes,” Tse said, calling for more details on the commercial areas and accessibilities.

Rui Leão noted that he found it strange that although this was the third meeting of the committee in which the land plots were addressed, the government never presented any real street plan, tridimensional model or computer rendering that could give insight as to what is the real idea from the government for this part of the territory, “only numbers, sizes and dimensions. It is very strange not to show any profile of the streets [now], otherwise we will only see the plan when it is already built.”

The architect also directed harsh criticism at the government regarding the ideas for such an area: “This is an area of the new centrality and regional articulation, it would make all sense that [it] would not be used almost exclusively for public housing. This is both excessive and incorrect [to do]. It makes no sense not to have private [use for] land plots.”

Leão also proposed that the access to the LRT should be done through the podium of the buildings, creating a “win-win situation” for both the buildings and the LRT at the resemblance with what happens in some areas of Hong Kong currently. “Policy must be written and clearly stated so it can be used as a negotiation tool [with the developers of the plots located next to LRT stations], otherwise it would be impossible to negotiate later; we already have experience on this matter,” he said.

CPU member warns over excessive density

DURING YESTERDAY’S meeting of the CPU, architect Rui Leão expressed concerns over what he considers to be a big planning flaw for Zone A of the new landfills; an “excess of density” on the use of the land plots. He made the remarks when commenting on the plans for land plots C5 and C6 allocated to be used as a “school village” that would include four institutions. Leão said, “this seems to be a very high density use and that will include a very high number of students,” adding, “the density use of the land plots is not being thought and seriously analyzed.” “[The] government is saturating the urban plots leaving no space for the public. Consequently we are creating forms of police supervision [for illegal parking] instead of thinking about the freedom of movement and use by people,” he said. “Parking, circulation areas and public space needs should be solved inside the land plot area.”

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