Development of underground space (2017/01/11)(Supplementary)

Development of underground space (2017/01/11)(Supplementary)

Development of underground space (2017/01/11)(Supplementary)

MR YIU SI-WING (in Cantonese): President, Mong Kok is traditionally a hottourist spot with heavy pedestrian flow and the long existing problem of traffic congestion. Among the four Strategic Urban Areas, the problem in Happy Valley should be less severe. Recently, the Highways Department has also proposed in the District Council the construction of a super long footbridge in Mong Kok to improve pedestrian flow, but it is estimated that the construction works will take five years to complete. Since the Bureau also understands where the problem lies, I would like to ask the Secretary why does the Government not consider developing underground shopping streets in Mong Kok? As a matterof fact, public nuisance caused by the development of underground shopping streets should be less serious than that caused by the construction of a super long footbridge. Hence, what consideration will be given by the Secretary to the development of underground shopping streets in Mong Kok, which will achieve better effects, has no impact on road traffic, but will increase the supply of shop facilities in the district?

SECRETARY FOR DEVELOPMENT (in Cantonese): President, I thank Mr YIU Si-wing for his supplementary question. What are the reasons for selecting the four SUAs instead of Yau Tsim Mong for study on underground space development? A very important reason is that in the existing selected areas, the sites involved are mainly parks/open space and government land, thus making it easier to resolve the ownership problem if we decide to develop underground space there. Moreover, generally speaking, there are not many complicated underground facilities in the sites involved, though it has been discovered during the discussion of the development plan for Wan Chai that MTR facilities would be involved and some adjustments might have to be made.

However, Yau Tsim Mong is a very densely populated area with many underground facilities and complicated ownership. Revenue generated from thesale of land does not cover only the ownership of premises and facilities above ground, but also facilities built underground or located deep down under the earth. Hence, further consideration will only be made after we have summed up experience in the next stage.

DR YIU CHUNG-YIM (in Cantonese): President, the study and development of underground space will inevitably involve the acquisition of underground space ownership of private lots, and past experiences in implementing railway projectslike the Shatin to Central Link and West Island Line indicate that this has always led to serious doubts and nuisance. According to a paper submitted by the Government to this Council in 2011, tens of regional forums were held then to explain the case to the public, and the affected residents were generally concerned about such issues as compensation, impacts on redevelopment, structural safety, and so on. It was even stated in the paper submitted by the Government to this Council that it would be possible for the affected persons to claim compensation from the Government. Therefore, in order to avoid similar or even greater worries when underground space development projects are implemented, I would like to ask the Government whether it will learn from past experiences and explore what ordinances should be invoked for the recovery of underground space? While Mass Transit Railway Ordinance may be invoked to facilitate the resumption ofland for the construction of railways, what ordinances should be invoked for the development of underground space? Can the authorities address publicconcerns in this regard by preparing a paper to clearly explain to the publicwhether a compensation mechanism is provided for in these ordinances, and how such issues as redevelopment and structural safety will be dealt with under such ordinances?

SECRETARY FOR DEVELOPMENT (in Cantonese): President, with regard to the issues mentioned in the supplementary question, that is, the problems arise in such aspects as compensation, structural safety and impacts on redevelopment when underground space development projects are implemented, the extent ofinfluence brought forth may vary from case to case. However, as I have pointedout just now in my reply to the supplementary question raised by Mr YIU Si-wing, most of the sites involved in the four areas selected for the current study are parks/open space, which are basically government land, and the problems concerned are thus relatively simple.

Secondly, as for the concerns expressed about structural safety, Memberscan rest assure that practitioners of various related professions in Hong Kong have all along been performing their duties diligently. During all these years, alarge number of tunnels, railways, bridges and roads have been constructed in Hong Kong but structural safety concerns have never been identified in any ofthem. We should keep an eye on the issue but there is no need to cause any unnecessary worry. In case there is a need to acquire the ownership of underground space, there are also precedents which we can refer to, including the relevant ordinances invoked back in those years to deal with the construction of MTR lines. Hence, we are confident that we can tackle the problems involved in this regard.