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Town planners map out future

January 11, 2015

Living space

Living space:  Chief Town Planner Winnie Lau compares her work to that of an artist drawing a three-dimensional painting, with a plot of land as her canvas.

City visionaries

City visionaries:  Ms Lau says town planners should be good listeners and observers with a great imagination.


Eco-planning:  Senior Town Planner Donna Tam inspects sites to ensure the local ecology is not affected by a new development.

Hong Kong's population continues to grow, but land is limited. Town planners are instrumental in making the best use of the city's limited land resources, while meeting residents' needs for housing, shopping and transport facilities.


The Government is exploring ways to further develop Lantau Island and turn it into an East Lantau Metropolis for accommodating a new population. 


The plan is to reclaim land to transform the area into a core business district such as Central and Kowloon East. Planning Department Chief Town Planner Winnie Lau is responsible for the East Lantau Metropolis project.


"We want to balance the distribution of Hong Kong's population and workforce. Our current workforce is now concentrated in the urban areas. Meanwhile, more people have moved to new towns and the New Territories, so we also aim to reduce traffic."


Futuristic vision
Ms Lau must also consider that she is mapping out a town of the future that will be around for 20, 30 years or more. She believes what sets a great town planner apart from an average one is that they listen, observe and discuss more.


"We do not have a crystal ball to predict the future. We need to listen to citizens to understand their aspirations; to observe more and understand the changes in society and to discuss more and explain the long-term benefits of the development to residents."


Ms Lau compares her work to that of an artist drawing a three-dimensional painting. While an artist starts off with a blank canvas, she has an empty plot of land. The challenge for her is that the "painting" must come to life.


Balancing act
Planning Department Senior Town Planner Donna Tam says it is always a challenge to strike a balance between development and conservation. She manages the Tung Chung West project which involves looking at ways to develop land near Yat Tung Estate without affecting the area's ecology.


"We must conserve areas with high ecological value, so the Tung Chung West project must not be developed near the Tung Chung Stream."


Ms Tam believes good town planning involves immersing yourself in the local community, since you are essentially mapping out people's housing, shopping, entertainment and transport needs for years to come.


"We must step into the community to understand the impact of a development and the future needs of its residents," Ms Tam explained.

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