A Study on the Development Potential of Brownfield in the New Territories
Brownfields as a Land Supply Option: Since its establishment in Aug 2017, the Task Force on Land Supply (Task Force) has been evaluating various land supply options, including brownfields which spans over 1 000 hectares across the New Territories. However, the Task Force has intentionally underestimated the development potential of brownfields, and instead prefered other land supply options such as reclamation and green belts, which will cost Hong Kong dear financially, environmentally and socially.
Underestimating development potential of brownfields: The government and the Task Force have made the following eight mistakes throughout deliberation process: selective scoping of brownfield development sites, drawing early conclusions, overestimating the scatterness of brownfields, improperly employing large-scale planning model on brownfield development, creating false antagonism in the name of nature conservation, applying double standards, shelving the all-powerful Lands Resumption Ordinance and framing the brownfields as remote outposts with no road access.
Study on brownfield development potential: In order to assess the true development potential of brownfield clusters, the research team conducted a comprehensive land parcel analysis, and studied their geographical proximity and their sizes.
1 172 hectares of brownfield clusters were identified. They are located mainly in Western New Territories (Hung Shui Kiu, Southern Yuen Long, Pat Heung and Lung Kwu Tan). Over 723 hectares of these were not included in any government’s development projects.
These sizeable brownfield clusters (each >= 2 hectares) are not scattered and deserve further study on its development potential, such as developing low density rural-type on brownfields.
The cumulative size of the top-20 brownfield clusters are found to be over 791 hectares. However, near half (391 hectares) has not been included in any development projects or having any development timetable. These brownfield clusters are overlooked by the government and the Task Force.
Among the overlooked brownfields clusters, the top-3 brownfield clusters are in Wang Toi Shan (71 hectares), Ping Che (without development timetable, 70 hectares) and Lung Kwu Tan (38 hectares).
Alternatives to large-scale development model – Rural-type Public Housing: While large land parcels are often required in the high-density development mode applicable to urban areas, it is not the same in rural areas where low- and mid-density development are more suitable. Unlike in urban areas, smaller land parcels in rural areas become developable since there is a smaller population and hence lower demand on infrastructure/community facilities. The government could better utilize the brownfield cluster with reference to the previous experience of rural-type public housing development. Mishandling of existing brownfields: As to the brownfield clusters currently considered by the government, they have not been handled with priority, e.g. the development of 242 hectares of brownfield within the New Territories North Development Study will not commence before 2030. For those brownfield clusters overlooked by the government, their development potential are seriously underestimated, for instance, the government claims that the brownfield clusters in Pat Heung are non-developable due to height restrictions, and discredits the remaining brownfields altogether as a tiny fraction of it are close to ecologically-sensitive wetlands.
The government allegedly misleads the Task Force and the public on the development potential of brownfields, and unfortunately the Task Force fails to perform its function to prioritize different land supply options.
Adopting the Brownfield-First principle. Use brownfield first, before considering land supply options which will cost Hong Kong dear socially, environmentally and financially.
Identify the development potential as well as their condition of damage, comprehensively both inside and outside existing development projects.
Employ a “tripartite strategy” on brownfields:
Brownfield reversion: Remediate the brownfields, and restore them back to their original environment.
Industry relocation and upgrade: Large non-remediable brownfield clusters that are could be used to relocate existing brownfield operation in a more efficient manner
Housing Development: Small non-remediable brownfield clusters could be used to develop rural-type public housing