Finding sites for housing projects is one of the key tasks for the Hong Kong government to tackle the increasingly dire housing problem in the city.
The Task Force on Land Supply, set up last August by chief executive Carrie Lam, has been handed the task to formulate land supply strategy. The task force held its eleventh meeting last week to discuss the potential of developing the River Trade Terminal (RTT) site for alternative use, including residential purpose.
At the meeting, Stanley Wong, chairman of the task force, said members generally agreed that it would be worthwhile to explore the alternative uses of the sizeable RTT site to better meet the prevailing needs of the community.
“The RTT occupied an area of 65 hectares and is a privately-run terminal dedicated for river cargo. In 2017, the utilisation rate of the RTT was only 24 per cent of its capacity; it handled only 3 per cent of Hong Kong Port’s total throughput,” Wong said, implying there should be better use of the site that is not fully utilised.
The RTT is a 50/50 joint venture between Hutchison Port Holdings Limited and Sun Hung Kai Properties Limited.
Wong said the task force discussed the possibility of using the site for housing development to provide approximately 20,000 residential flats, but noted the challenges ahead such as ensuring compatibility with the adjoining industrial uses, whether the transport infrastructure could support the population growth in the area as well as air pollution and noise problems arising from the industrial facilities nearby. He also noted that the proposal of developing the RTT site could only be regarded as a medium- to long-term land supply option, as it would take time to conduct detailed study of the various issues pertinent to the proposal such as land use compatibility, transport and infrastructural constraints and land ownership issues. But the industry insiders do not seem keen on the proposal.
“I do not oppose seeking sites for housing, but there needs to be other supportive measures and alternative sites for those affected,” Stanley Chiang, chairman of Lok Ma Chau China-Hong Kong Freight Association, told Harbour Times.
“The government has been setting its eye on the warehouse sites but offers no alternatives. The warehouses and car parks just end up relocating to other parts in the New Territories, where the government aims to seize more sites for housing,” said Chiang. “It’s not helping the problem.”
“After the completion of the Hong Kong–Zhuhai–Macau Bridge, the industry will depend on the RRT even more as it is the only port in the New Territories West. It has a valuable location and can create economic benefits.”
He also showed reservation about the housing plans in the area. “The infrastructure in Tuen Mun is not sufficient enough to accommodate more residents,” said Chiang. “The capacity of the West Rail Line, for example, has already become saturated. The government needs forward-looking plans. “
Chan Dik-sau, chairman of Container Transportation Employees General Union, is also against the proposal.
“There are reasons why the utilization rate of the RRT is low. One is that the seabed is shallow there, so the ocean cargo vessels cannot dock there but have to turn to Kwai Tsing Container Terminals,” Chan explained.“Even so, the value of RTT still remains as many warehouses are rented out for picking up and returning containers.”
“If the site is taken away for housing development, the warehouses would be forced out to the New Territories. It would give rise to safety and management concerns. The container stacking area at the RTT is well paved with concrete, but this is not the case of the brownfield [sites] in the New Territories.”
“We have not received any support from the government already. The government cannot simply take away sites from the industry and return nothing,” Chan told Harbour Times.
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