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Residential Car-Park Plans Fly In The Face Of Air Pollution Pledges

SCMP – Updated on Dec 23, 2008

I was stunned to read in the report (“Plan to cut developers’ sweeteners”, December 13), that our government, despite its declarations of commitment to sustainable development and to cleaning up our abominable air quality, has in fact been pushing property developers to include parking facilities in their developments. You quoted a Development Bureau source: “Existing planning guidelines asked each development to build a minimum amount of parking space.”

So instead of encouraging inner-city dwellers to use the convenient and abundant public transport services available in urban areas, the government has been promoting car ownership. This explains why new developments on crowded, narrow, inner-city streets have sprouted large podiums that block ventilation and are a major cause of air pollution and conflict between pedestrians and vehicles.

In most mature cities, inner-city residential accommodation does not include parking facilities, yet here in Hong Kong, where previously few blocks included car parking, people who would never have dreamed of purchasing a car now find themselves with an empty garage to fill. Perhaps the Development Bureau would like to let the public know which official came up with this dumb idea?

While massive podiums may be permissible on standalone sites on say Castle Peak Road, they are certainly not appropriate in areas such as Wan Chai, Central, Sheung Wan, Causeway Bay and Yau Tsim Mong. Residents of these areas for years traditionally did not own cars and it is in the interests of the community both from a health perspective and also to promote interaction between the different strata of society that they continue not doing so.

In view of the soaring pollution and the high cost to the community in terms of chronic respiratory conditions, medical fees and lost productivity we must call for an immediate halt to parking-related concessions. Hundreds of thousands of chickens have been slaughtered to ward off the spread of bird flu. Measures to counteract air pollution should be implemented in the same decisive and immediate manner. Public health must come before the pecuniary interests of property developers.

Martin Brinkley, Ma Wan

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