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Conceptual Option
Topside Development of Existing Transport Infrastructure
Utilising the Development Potential of Public Utilities Sites

How can the Space and Development Potential of the Sites for Transport Infrastructure and Public Utilities be Better Utilised?

Some members of the community have suggested that the space and development potential of transport infrastructure, such as roads, railways and railway maintenance depots; as well as public utilities such as telephone exchanges should be better utilised to increase land supply. One suggestion is to undertake topside residential development above transport infrastructure

The potential locations suggestions put forward by some in the community include Pat Heung Maintenance Depot of the MTR Corporation Limited, the waterfront area along the highway in Ma Liu Shui close to the Chinese University of Hong Kong, Yau Mau Tei Interchange, the interchange at the south-east side of Mei Foo Sun Chuen, and the interchange between Mei Foo Sun Chuen and the container terminals.

and public utilities.

There are in fact examples of topside housing development above transport infrastructure in Hong Kong. In general, however, the planning, design and construction of transport infrastructure is taken forward in parallel with topside housing development to better integrate the functional uses of both developments and miminise complicated interface issues. There are precedents of building housing over transport infrastructure after completion of the transport infrastructure, showing that the concept is not technically infeasible. Existing transport infrastructure would however pose considerable constraints to the planning, design and construction of topside development. Topside development after completion of transport infrastructure will therefore be more complicated than cases involving comprehensive planning in the initial stage. The impact of the topside development on the transport infrastructure underneath would also need to be carefully examined.

  • There are a number of large-scale housing estates built above railway stations or depots, or in their vicinity. The Government is actively exploring with the MTR Corporation Limited (MTRCL) the development potential of the sites along existing and future railway lines. For example, the Government has announced ae residential development above the MTRCL's Yau Tong Ventilation Building, which can provide around 500 flats. The Government is also assessing the viability of topside development over railway depots such as Pat Heung and Siu Ho Wan.
  • MTRCL's studies show that the Siu Ho Wan Depot site could provide not less than 14,000 housing units in the medium to long term. Taking forward this development would require reprovisioning of the existing railway depot at the same location while ensuring its normal and safe operation, including the parking and maintenance of trains, along with other supporting services, at all times during and after the works.

In terms of the sites for public utilities, the Government will in general review whether there is a need to retain the land for its original use in accordance with the existing mechanism before the expiry of the land leases. The Government will also review as appropriate the development potential of individual sites, including potential for topside development, in accordance with the planning studies for that area. This is especially the case if the site is larger or well-located.

  • Telephone exchanges offer an example of public utilities. Most of the sites for telephone exchanges are relatively small, with only two with over 4,000 square metres and located in urban areas.

Benefits of Development

Topside development above transport infrastructure and public utilities can better utilise the space and development potential of these sites. Even though various factors might make some sites unsuitable for housing development, other uses can be considered.

For example, the topside provision of recreational facilities or green space for public enjoyment and for enhancement of the urban environment.

For public utilities sites, releasing the sites for other purposes can be considered if it is not necessary to retain the land for its original use.

Costs of Development

As future topside development was not factored into the designs of existing transport infrastructure when built, there would be various constraints and challenges to overcome. These include technical issues such as the viability of constructing an elevated platform and its supporting structure, and issues such as compatibility of the land use, property rights for topside housing development, visual impact, as well as the impact on landscape, air ventilation, environment and transport facilities, etc.

In view of the scale and complexity of building an elevated platform and its associated structure, a longer construction period would be required, and the overall cost would be higher.

If topside development over public utilities is required, considerations similar to those of transport infrastructure will be involved.

Challenges and Uncertainties

Some of the transport infrastructure serve as major roads. A long-spanned elevated platforms over existing highways may be required. If all or part of the topside buildings are to be located on the long-spanned elevated platform, the construction cost would be even higher.

Some of the major roads in the urban areas help improve ventilation, bring natural sunlight and disperse pollutants to a certain extent. Topside development along these roads may affect such functions and the view of the buildings nearby.

Topside development over transport infrastructure should be pursued in accordance with the Town Planning Ordinance (Cap. 131), including the necessary amendments to statutory plans. Gazettal procedures may also be required in accordance with the Roads (Works, Use and Compensation) Ordinance (Cap. 370).

Depending on the circumstances of the selected sites, even if it is proven to be technically feasible to undertake topside development over transport infrastructure and public utilities, it can only be a medium-to-long term land supply option.

Key Points

  1. The normal practice for topside development over transport infrastructure is to plan, design and construct the infrastructure and topside facilities in parallel. Undertaking topside development over a completed facility may pose considerable limitations and challenges on the topside development.
  2. When building housing units or other facilities over transport infrastructure or public utilities, various factors have to be examined in detail, such as the viability of constructing an elevated platform and its supporting structure, the compatibility of topside housing development with its surroundings, and its impact on transport, environment and landscape. Relevant statutory procedures should also be complied with. Hence, it can only be considered a medium-to-long-term land supply option if it is proven technically feasible.
  3. Development potential, including topside development, of public utilities sites that are relatively large and better located can be considered if it is no longer needed to retain the land for the original use.
| Last Revision Date: 5 December 2018