The vexed question of Stanley car park is raising its ugly head again. Readers may recall that Stanley in recent years has been threatened with the prospect of some three years of traffic chaos while an underground car park is built on the site of the current bus station in the middle of the town.
Last year the government appeared to back away from the project with senior Transport Department engineer Alan Tam Chung-on saying neither his department nor the planning department supported it.
However, the proposal has influential adherents and in February the chairman of Southern District Council (SDC) was prevailed on to write to the Commissioner for Transport asking the government to expedite the project. Maxine Yao a member of The Stanley Residents Concern Group who is coordinating opposition to the car park is urging Stanley residents to demonstrate their opposition to the project at an SDC meeting on April 5, when transportation in the area will be discussed.
The problem for the government and residents resisting the car park is that the project was approved by the SDC in 2014 and a request has been made to the Legislative Council for funding. Given the current environment in Legco it is unlikely to be approved any time soon. But those opposing the project would like to kill it stone dead.
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.
This pattern has been evident for years in the Transport Department surveys of the utilization of Stanley metered parking spaces over the months of June July and August.
The surveys, which were recently made available to members of the Stanley concern group, show that the number of visitors at weekends is increasing with average utilisation of parking spaces rising to 121.8% in August 2015 compared with 89.8% in August 2008. But utilisation on weekdays was 56.3% and 39% on weekdays over the same period. The cost of building the car park was unofficially estimated at HK$50 million in December 2014. Residents say it seems hard to justify spending this amount on a car park when it only needed one day a week.
The initial proposal was for a multi-story car park with 140 car parking spaces right in the middle of the town on the site of the main bus terminus. But following the howls of outrage that greeted the design it was changed to an underground car park.
Another feature of the proposal was to reverse the direction of the traffic flow on Beach Road, and to convert the current metered car parking spaces along the road next to the beach into parks for coaches.
The main proponent of the scheme is Southern District Council representative for Stanley, Mrs Chan Lee Pui-ying, who just happens to own four properties in Stanley Main Street. The prospect of coaches and an additional 140 cars disgorging hordes of visitors more or less on their doorstep clearly appeals to shop owners in this part of Stanley. In recent years development has been concentrated at the other end of the street which overlooks the scenic Stanley Bay and has benefited with the relocation of Murray House in 2002 and the completion of Stanley Plaza in 2011.
Residents have suggested that if there is a need for a car park then it should be built on the vacant piece of land on Carmel Road that is used as a temporary car park at weekends. But it is located behind the shopping plaza and is the wrong end of the street for Mrs Chan and her fellow shop owners.