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Tower Blocks Will Overwhelm Street Market

Updated on Sep 18, 2008 – SCMP

Angela Tang, of the Urban Renewal Authority (URA) misses the point (“Hawkers back Graham Street market revamp”, September 11) of my own letter about decision-makers failing to come to grips with urban planning and the way we live in Hong Kong (“Officials must change the way they look at public planning”, September 6).

The public knows the link between tall buildings, the road canyons they create, the air pollution trapped at ground level, the air we breathe and its respiratory consequences. It also knows of the detrimental effects of high-rise living, lack of green open space, traffic congestion and pavement crowding that the nearby Graham Street public and those in Central and Mid-Levels must endure.

The URA market redevelopment plans of four bulky high-rise tower blocks, a three-level shopping podium and a construction period of more than six years will overwhelm the hawkers, the historic street market and the available road and pedestrian infrastructure – and destroy Hong Kong’s oldest street market.

This is a place the public can call and use as its own precisely because a street market is a special egalitarian space open to all and not competing with sectional interests, for example, the security guards that you may find in, say, Times Square.

Shoppers, residents from adjacent areas and further uphill and people working in Central, visit, shop and use the present market and can see the sun because it is predominantly a low-rise area. And they have the freedom to walk on four totally pedestrian streets (Peel, Graham, Staveley and Gutzlaff) and partially pedestrianised Gage Street. All these people, although they are not themselves hawkers or residents in the URA redevelopment area, are also stakeholders in this project.

There are countless examples of bad urban planning in Hong Kong and the proposed Graham Street market redevelopment is one. The new political reality is that bad urban planning and all its adverse consequences are fundamental issues and because of them, the public will judge our decision-makers.

We want something a lot better than the sad, hackneyed, destructive models that URA officials, but not other people, think is good urban planning.

John Batten, Sheung Wan

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