For some years, Stanley residents have been watching in horror as the prospect of government plans for a multi-story car park looms ever larger. But there are indications that the madness of this scheme is becoming apparent to the government and HowardWinnReports understands that it is attempting to distance itself from the project.
Readers will recall that the initial proposal was for a multi-story car park right in the middle of the town on the site of the main bus terminus. There were to be 140 car parking spaces because, according to the Transport Department (TD), traffic in Stanley at the weekend and public holidays was
intense and more spaces were needed. Another feature of this proposal was to reverse the direction of the traffic flow on Beach Road, and to convert the current metered parking spaces along the road next to the beach into parking spaces for coaches. The government estimated that it would take about three years to complete the car park which would result in unimaginable disruption in the what is still one of Hong Kong’s more scenic and pleasant spots to visit.
Unsurprisingly these proposals have met stiff local opposition, apart that is, from the Southern District Council representative for Stanley, Mrs Chan Lee Pui-ying, who just happens to own four properties in the nearby shopping area. The prospect of coaches disgorging hordes of tourist more or less on their doorstep has some shopkeepers rubbing their hands with glee.
Residents question the need for more car parking, saying Stanley is only crowded at weekends and on public holidays. Indeed a car park on Carmel Road, behind Stanley Plaza, which is open at weekends has to be closed during the week because it is not economical to keep it open, such is the decline in traffic.
The TD has not covered itself in glory over this. Last year the ombudsman criticised the department for its prevarication in sharing its so-called “traffic assessment” plan for the area. This was because the “assessment” amounted to little more than a stroll around Stanley by department officials.
In February the TD responded to the opposition by noting in a circular to objectors that since the car park was not a “tourist attraction,” it would not attract more visitors to Stanley. It therefore requested residents to drop their objections.
Residents were unimpressed and in yet another survey of almost 1,000 residents which took place between March and June this year 97% opposed the plan. Maxine Yao, a member of the Stanley Residents Concern Group who coordinated the survey, said the results were sent to the TD. Shortly afterwards she had a meeting with Alan Tam Chung-on, a senior engineer with the department.
Yao says that Tam said that despite what everyone had been led to believe, neither the Transport Department nor the Planning Department supported the scheme for the car park. The impetus for the scheme, he said, had come from the Southern District Council. It was only because of “pressure” from the district council that the government had spent so much time and effort on planning the car park. After looking at government statements and actions on this project, one can only say it has given a very good impression over the years of being strongly in favour of the project.
According to Tam, since the plan had met with such fierce opposition the government would not proceed with the proposal. However, the car park proposal is not yet dead since a request for funding has been sent to the Legislative Council. Yao says she has written to the Secretary for Housing and Transport, Anthony Cheung Bing-leung, asking him to extricate it from Legco. Her letter has been acknowledged but the government has yet to leap into action on this.
Meanwhile Yao says she hopes to kill the project dead in the Southern District Council. She will be running in the District Council elections in November in the hope of unseating Mrs Chan Lee Pui-ying, who has been the incumbent Stanley representative for the past 16 years, despite her brush with the law some years ago over her irregular approach to attracting votes.