The rise and growth of Kwun Tong: a study of planned urban development


Chan, Ying Keung

TitleThe rise and growth of Kwun Tong: a study of planned urban development
PublisherSocial Research Center, the Chinese University of Hong Kong
Publication DateAugust, 1973
Keywords:Cities and towns – Growth
City planning

Kwun Tong

Abstract/ Concluding Remarks:Kwun Tong, commonly known as the first "new town" in Hong Kong and created in the eastern part of New Kowloon, is now near its completion after 17 years of rapid development. The proximity of Kwun Tong to urban Kowloon, its sparse population in the early 1950's, and its suitable physical situation for reclamation and leveling, etc., turned the government's decision to select Kwun Tong as the site for the first new town. The dual-purpose, under government planning, of providing more industrial lands for the expanding manufacturing industry which has been of vital importance to the Hong Kong economy, and to house thousands of people from squ

It was the government who initiated and planned the Kwun Tong development, and it was also the government who took care of reclamation and lands formation, construction of road system and provision of public housing. But it was the investments from private enterprises that have provoked manufacturing industry to flourish and make Kwun Tong one of the most important industrial areas of Hong Kong. Though contributions from both government and private enterprises undoubtedly have importance throughout the development history of Kwun Tong, efforts made by voluntary bodies, both religious and secular, in providing various social services also have their special importance to the lower-middle and lower working class community.

What Kwun Tong amazes people is its rapid development, its intensive manufacturing activities, being home for half a million people and a considerable working force. However, it would be too crude a conclusion to say that an urban development plan has been successfully carried out, a conclusion simply drawn from the population size and the numbers of factories and employees or products so far attained, without considering other aspects. In a previous paper we have already pointed out Kwun Tong as whole is a dependent system subordinating to the large Hong Kong system, people who moved to Kwun Tong were primarily provoked by push factors rather than their own choice. In their view, Kwun Tong is nothing more than a living place; and among Kwun Tong residents, they have low identification with their community and few effort have been made in community bui1ding.135 As a new urban area is being planned, it is not necessary to plan it as an independent community; but at least requirements of certain basic community services should be fulfilled. In the Kwun Tong case, results of our empirical research show that community services are inadequate both in the eyes of researchers and Kwun Tong residents. Education, medica1/health services, etc., depend much on the large Hong Kong system. Furthermore, the high degree of overcrowding, lack of environmental beauty, recreation and entertainment facilities, the problem of traffic congestion, shortage of spaces for commercial/business undertakings, all these problems reflect that an urban district is neither sufficiently nor well-planned.

According to the planning standard and the district development plans, the provision of many facilities should be quite enough roads, ferry piers, open spaces, and institutions giving different kinds of services, and sites have been reserved for their development. However, the realisation of these various services have always lagged behind the needs of the local population and industry. The growing speed of population and industry has well been taken as the excuse for “unforeseen” shortage of community services; but actually, this should not be the case. Since the majority of Kwun Tong people are living in public housing estates, and all factories have been established on leased crown lands with the approval of the authority, there is no reason why the amount of community services should appear inadequate at any specific period of time, as the authority plans for the development of public housing, as well as provision of industrial lands at every stage of development. Or we can say that though sufficient community services have been planned, they are usually not implemented before urgent needs have been created; in other words, the plan has not been carried out successfully. Moreover, the attempt of creating enough jobs in the district for the residents so as to reduce the commuting inconvenience has been proven a failure - jobs in Kwun Tong factories are sufficient in number, but many of them are taking by workers from outside, while many workers residing in Kwun Tong are employees of establishments outside the district.

In spite of all shortcomings so far observed in the Case of Kwun Tong, similar development plans have been adopted for other new towns in Hong Kong. Tsuen Wan, Tuen Mun, Shatin all have the dual industrial-residential purpose, and the same standards in provision of various community services - education, clinics, recreational facilities, etc., have been adopted. Since public housing will be dominant in the residential sector, high degree of overcrowding can also be expected. But in other new towns, there are certain improvements in development process - at least on the government side: more attention has been paid at an early stage of development to road system, water supply, and more open spaces for recreational use. However, it seems that the government’s philosophy of urban planning has not been changed much. In all new towns, the government is responsible in land formation (which is profitable when lands are leased by auction), provision of roads, water, drainage and sewage systems, while building development (except public housing), is to be shared with private enterprises. Many social services will be very probably again under the auspices of religious or secular voluntary bodies and the provision of many public utilities are to be laid in the hands of private enterprises. Although it is still too early to say whether new towns such as Tuen Mun or Shatin will face the same problems of inadequacy in community services, and obvious time lag between supply and demand, but it is not unlikely if the government again does not get more involved in the provision of various kinds of community services, directly or indirectly, other than just giving out sites for their development.

It is not our intention here to figure out what an ideal new town for Hong Kong should be. But judging from development so far carried out in the Colony, we would like to suggest, regardless of whatever pure residential or residential-industrial, homogenous or heterogeneous a new town may be, physically, more living spaces should be allocated to each occupant so as to lower the degree of overcrowding, transportation system and other public utilities should better be developed before urgent needs are created, open spaces for intensive recreational purposes. In other words, better coordination of construction progress in new towns are needed; socially, education, medical/health and social welfare services must be adequate, and more efforts have to be made in eliminating the time lag between supply and demand; commuting should also be reduced through better employment structure in the community. Lastly, we have to point out that Kwun Tong, marked by its virtual one-class structure, is lack of binding forces, residents are not enthusiastic in participation of local activities or raising issues concerning any improvement of their environment. Then, the question of how to enforce, psychologically, the sense of belonging into the mind of residents to their community, in Kwun Tong and other new towns under development, really call for further studies.
Note“This paper is produced for the Kwun Tong Industrial Community Research Programme”
Bibliography: leaves 69-72
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