The ‘Field’ to Change: Hong Kong’s Brownfield Policy in the Past, Present and Future

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Book Description Is reclamation inevitable? Is the rural New Territories “unplannable”? In land-scarce Hong Kong, why is brownfield land still a “taboo” in the eyes of urban planners? Adopting a community research approach, The ‘Field’ to Change tries to answer these perennial questions. This book consolidates the yearslong research on a range of issues from the brownfields to the broader land question in Hong Kong. Grounded on substantive research over the years, it dissects the brownfield issue from multiple perspectives. The new discourses provide a point of departure for drawing up a blueprint to tackle Hong Kong’s land problem by more sustainable development options other than reclamation. “There are three obstacles to cleaning up the mess in the unruly New Territories: landed interests, village gentries and failure in proper planning.”   Recommendations As the Chinese saying goes, “it takes a decade to sharpen a sword”. The book reflects the perseverance of the Liber Research Community and the civil society in conceptualising “brownfield land”. “Brownfield land” transformed from an unknown into the most popular land development option in the “Land Debate” in 2018. In the following year, the government announced the official review of 160 hectares of brownfield land for public housing development. This was the achievement of the civil society in its advocacy of brownfield land redevelopment over the last the years and marked an important page in the history of land development in Hong Kong. ──Andy Chu, Programme Manager, Greenpeace   Book information Author: Liber Research Community Book design: Russell Pun, Kest Cheung Publisher: Liber Research Community Publication date: November 2022 ISBN: 978-988-14095-8-4 Retail price: HK$108 Wholesale price: HK$75.6   About the author Registered as a non-profit organization in 2014, Liber Research Community (HK) Company Limited consists of a group of people who undertake independent research with the development of Hong Kong in mind. Liber Research Community is a testing ground where people with different research interests can get together and improve the research capacity of society as a whole.   Content Foreword: Andy Chu (Programme Manager, Greenpeace) Chapter 1: An overview of brownfields in Hong Kong   Preface   A brief history of brownfield policy: Milestones over the past decade     Milestone 1: Key questions identified for a more solid factual foundation     Milestone 2: Brownfield sites as the most popular land option     Milestone 3: Brownfield development supported by civil society     Milestone 4: Policy breakthrough     Milestone 5: Ongoing public scrutiny   Brownfields as a land controversy in Hong Kong: An overview     Debunking the myth of “land shortage” in Hong Kong     Brownfields as a method: Changing land development patterns     Breakthroughs in land development     The civil agenda under an increasingly authoritarian policy-making environment   Unfinished agenda: About the book Chapter 2: Tracing brownfields   Major characteristics of brownfield land     Spatial expansion     Distribution and features     Ownership structure     Operations and uses   Development potential     Degree of clustering     Locations and accessibility     Other factors   Problems caused by brownfield expansion     Poor pedestrians and vehicles separation     Safety problems     Ecological catastrophes     Land pollution     Hotbed of illegal activities     Encroaching conservation zones   Problematic data collection in official surveys     Outdated data     Incomplete scope of research     Fallen off the radar- “Hidden” brownfield sites     Sites used by government departments omitted from official surveys Chapter 3: Case Studies: prominent examples of brownfield land   Case 1: Wang Chau, Yuen Long- The Origin of the Brownfield Controversy     The Wang Chau saga     Brownfield issues – adjourn sine die Under-the-table deals     Land-subletting business     Road works paving the way for private development     The victims   Case 2: The Longest Delay: Brownfield clusters in Ping Shan, Yuen Long     A road away makes a totally different fate     Land ownership pattern influenced resumption decisions   Case 3: Flooding in Shek Wu Wai, San Tin: Natural disaster or man-made misfortune?     Brownfield land quadrupled in 20 years     The top flooding blackspot in Hong Kong     The “Planning vacuum”     Poor planning fueled brownfield activities        Focus 1: Shan Ha Tsuen, Yuen Long: Farmlands damaged by brownfield operations (2013)     Focus 2: Pui O, Lantau Island: Brownfield sites encroaching the coast (2015)     Focus 3: Wo Yi Hop Tsuen, Kwai Chung: Brownfield sites encroaching the Country Park (2021)     Focus 4: Ngau Tam Mei, Yuen Long: Gigantic illegal brownfield operations (2016)     Focus 5: Ha Tsuen and Kai Pak Ling: Hong Kong’s “lung disease village”     Focus 6: Sha Kong Wai, Hung Shui Kiu: the neglected brownfield clusters (2021)     Focus 7: Hung Lung Hang, Sheung Shui: The most poisonous brownfield cluster     Focus 8: Wetland at the border: facing imminent danger of brownfield encroachment Chapter 4: Tracing the birth of the brownfield crisis through an archival lens   Cottage factories: Emerging “brownfield sites” in the New Territories since the 1950s   Taming the unruly rural areas     Dealing with the uncontrolled spread of rural workshops     1960s-Opportunities for solving the rural factory problem     A More Positive Approach     The classification principle   The “Small Brownfield Park” proposal revisited   The plan went in smoke     Should the government revive the plan?   The insatiable: The role of Heung Yee Kuk in the brownfield problem     The “Joint Opinion”: A prelude to the Melhado Case     Escalating into a diplomatic clash Chapter 5: Legal issues and brownfield landscapes   The Tin Shui Wai “waste dump”     A rural spectacle created by legal loopholes     [Town Planning Ordinance: Issue 1] Incomplete enforcement power     [Town Planning Ordinance: Issue 2] Ill-defined land uses     [Town Planning Ordinance: Issue 3] What defines changes of land uses?     [Town Planning Ordinance: Issue 4] Unfulfilled reinstatement     [Town Planning Ordinance: Issue 5] Punished for sympathy     [Town Planning Ordinance: Issue 6] Town Planning Guidelines: a toothless tiger?     Case 1: 30 rezoning applications approved after the amendments to the “Open Storage” Planning Guidelines     Case 2: Thin end of the wedge: changing zoning categories fueled brownfield expansion     [Land (Miscellaneous Provisions) Ordinance: Issue 1] Are brownfield operations on farmland under Block Crown Lease exempted from regulation?     [Land (Miscellaneous Provisions) Ordinance: Issue 2] “Movable” unauthorised building works     [Land (Miscellaneous Provisions) Ordinance: Issue 3] Occupying government land     [Land (Miscellaneous Provisions) Ordinance: Issue 4] Offenders occupying government land at no cost     [Waste Disposal Ordinance: Issue 1] Is waste in the eye of the landholders?     [Waste Disposal Ordinance: Issue 2 ] Toothless penalties that deter nobody Legal loopholes encourage brownfield expansion Chapter 6: A forward-looking roadmap   Three ultimate obstacles to address brownfield issues     Obstacle 1: Changing mindset – How to form a sustainable vision of land development?     Obstacle 2: Deconstruction/Reconstruction –How can we facilitate changes under the influence of vested interests?     Obstacle 3: The Future — A forward-looking urban brownfield policy   A roadmap for a change to brownfield issues     Drawing a blueprint     Getting to the root cause: No more land should be used as dump sites     Regular stock-taking of brownfield land     Setting an affordable housing target     Establishing a long-term policy for relocation of brownfield operations Chapter 7: Finale- words from our researchers Appendices Appendix 1: Definitions of brownfields and policy changes Appendix 2: How to plug the loopholes created by the Melhado Case: Three solutions proposed by the British Hong Kong Government

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