5 Review of Local Experience


5.1.1    This section of the report reviews recent local experience in the fields of :

5.1.2    The objectives of the review of local experience are to:

5.1.3    This information may be of considerable use to the current Study both in identifying information resources, and also in developing appropriate methodologies.

5.1.4    Please note that the figure references in the descriptions below refer to figure numbers in the relevant studies, not the figures attached in Appendix II.



5.2.1    There is no single published work of landscape classification and assessment for the entire Hong Kong SAR. The work which has been done in terms of the analysis of landscape at a strategic level includes:

           Territory Development Strategy Review (1996)  

5.2.2    The 1996 Territory Development Strategy Review includes a strategy for the landscape of the SAR. The landscape of the SAR has been mapped and divided into a series of broad types. The TDSR's classification system covers both descriptive and evaluative content within the description of any one landscape type (presumably to aid brevity of presentation). The landscape classification system has both a descriptive and an evaluative component and is as follows:

5.2.3    Each of the classifications corresponds to a broad development or conservation strategy which covers that area. It is notable that urban areas are excluded from this analysis. The strategy includes the following categories (Figure 4.5):

5.2.4    In addition, the TDSR (Figure 4.7) also identifies a number of new areas proposed for conservation/protection.

           Sub-Regional Planning and Development Studies

5.2.5    Planning and development studies are periodically carried out for the sub-regional areas in order to translate the territorial planning visions into more specific planning objectives. There are five sub-regional areas, namely:


5.2.6    Landscape - The Metroplan Landscape Strategy for the Urban Fringe and Coastal Areas (MLS) (1989) was prepared as a component of Metroplan, the strategic planning document for the urban fringe and coastal areas of Hong Kong and Kowloon. The objective of the MLS was "to provide a comprehensive framework for landscape conservation and enhancement of the Metropolitan urban fringe and coastal areas". 

5.2.7    The MLS begins with a landscape appraisal during which both physical and visual landscape features were mapped (Figure 2). This in turn is used to develop a strategy plan (Figure 3) which identifies:

5.2.8    The document provides a brief description of the key attributes of those areas covered by the above classification, identifies where the value or otherwise lies and proposes prescriptions for those areas.

5.2.9    The Strategy also deals with recreation potential within the Study Area and deals in detail with the rehabilitation of a number of key degraded and recreational sites.

5.2.10  Townscape - Metroplan provides an analysis of the urban context of Hong Kong (Plan 16). This identifies:

5.2.11  This plan is useful in that it tries to integrate at a simple level landscape issues with the urban design context.

5.2.12  In addition, the Urban Design Statement - Key Plan (Plan 17) provides a mapped analysis of the urban area together with an outline strategy, largely in terms of existing land use. Categories which are mapped include:

5.2.13  This plan is notable for its references to visual qualities and its integration of landscape issues with urban design issues.

 Planning and Development Study on North-east New Territories (ongoing)

5.2.14  The Planning and Development on Study on the North-east New Territories contains a fairly comprehensive description, mapping and evaluation of the landscape of the north-east new territories (Technical Papers 6 and 7). Woodland is mapped and the landscape is broken down into Landscape Character Units. The LCU's are in effect 'landscape character areas' and are accompanied by descriptions of features and landscape character, together with photographs of selected features. These LCU's are also assigned a value from 'low' through to 'high'.

 Planning and Development Study on North-west New Territories (ongoing)

5.2.15  The Planning and Development Study on the North-west New Territories contains a limited description and mapping of the landscape of the north-west new territories (Technical Paper No. 7). Key landscape elements are mapped (woodland, topography and hydrological features - Figures 2-4; 7-9 and Supplementary Papers). There is no mapping or classification of landscape types or landscape character.

 Planning and Development Study on South-east New Territories (ongoing)

5.2.16  The Planning and Development on Study on the South-east New Territories contains a fairly comprehensive description of landscape character and quality, mapping and evaluation of the landscape of the south-east New Territories (Working Papers 7 and 8 (Volume II). Major landscape features are mapped and landscape is broken down into Landscape Character Units. The LCU's are in effect 'landscape character areas' and are accompanied by appropriate descriptions of features and landscape character, together with photographs of landscape context and selected features. These LCU's are also assigned an evaluation from 'low' through to 'high'. Prescriptive strategic actions for landscape are included in the 'Tourism and Recreation Framework'.

 Planning and Development Study on South West New Territories (ongoing)

5.2.17  The Planning and Development on Study on South West New Territories Planning and Development Study (Final Report) contains only limited reference to landscape values, as part of a wider conservation strategy. Figure 2.1 identifies existing Country Park and proposed extensions as well as SSSI's, features of ecological interest and features of heritage interest. There are brief landscape descriptions within the Tourism and Recreation Proposals (Section 4.4.2).

 Planning and Development Study on Hong Kong Island South and Lamma Island (ongoing)

5.2.18  The Planning and Development on Study on Hong Kong Island South and Lamma Island contains a stand-alone 'Landscape Value Appraisal' Report. The report presents a comprehensive breakdown of the Study area into local 'landscape character areas' (LCAs) with corresponding descriptions, rating of landscape sensitivity and detailed landscape planning guidelines for each LCA. There is also a broad landscape strategy for each LCA. Major landscape features are mapped (though woodland mapping is not presented in this report). The Landscape Appraisal Plan is also identifies recreational provision and potential. Photographs of selected features are provided in the EIA report.

 Development Statements for the Urban Areas

5.2.19  Development statements have thus far been prepared for the following urban areas of Hong Kong and Kowloon:

5.2.20  Amongst other subjects, these statements develop the objectives for landscape and urban design established by Metroplan. Most therefore include (to some extent) an analysis of the landscape and townscape characteristics of their areas.

 Hong Kong Island West Development Statement - Final Report (1999)

5.2.21  Landscape - The Hong Kong Island West Development Statement - Final Report provides a written description and analysis of the landscape of the Study area and provides an action plan which is linked to open space; recreation; pedestrian movement and streetscape and environmental objectives. Landscape is mapped largely in terms of the broad categories used in the Metroplan Landscape Strategy for the Urban Fringe and Coastal Areas. It also includes an action plan for future landscape improvements. 

5.2.22  Townscape - The urban environment is analysed (in the text) in terms of:

5.2.23   Mapping of the existing qualities of the urban area includes (at Figure 7.37):

 Tsuen Wan/Kwai Tsing Development Statement (1992)

5.2.24  Landscape - The Urban Design, Landscape, Open Space and Recreational Frameworks Report for the study provides an analysis of landscape issues. This comprises an analysis of fung shui characteristics. A number of key landscape character areas are identified on plan (no figure numbers) and described in the text with a limited amount of illustrative material. Specific key issues and problems are identified. 

5.2.25  Key landscape areas are examined in more detail in a series of landscape studies focusing on the key landscape areas whereby key resources are mapped and described and photographed.

5.2.26  Townscape - The report provides a textual description of the character of the urban area, with a series of analysis plans. Figure 1 is based on function, including:

5.2.27  Figure 3 analyses the urban area in terms of:

5.2.28  Figure 4 is based on form and includes:

5.2.29  Detailed design studies analyse local areas in terms of key view corridors and landmarks/major focal points/minor destinations and linkages.

 South-east Kowloon Development Statement (1993)

5.2.30  Landscape - South-east Kowloon Development Statement - Final Report: Volume 1 Development Proposals do not offer a significant analysis or description of existing landscape conditions or features other than solid geology (Figure 6) and shoreline conditions (paras 64-69).

5.2.31  Townscape - There is a comprehensive mapping and description of land-use, geology, building height, building age, building condition, plot ratio (Figures 6-8 and 11-14). There is however no analysis of the less tangible, or aesthetic qualities of the SEKDS area.

5.2.32  The report contains extensive landscape and urban design proposals for the new SEKDS area.

 West Kowloon Development Statement (1993)

5.2.33  Landscape - The West Kowloon Development Statement - Final Technical Report: Volume 1 Report contains a brief description of the key landscape characteristics of the area. A small number of key landscape issues are noted on plan.

5.2.34  Townscape - The report contains a brief description of the key urban design characteristics of the area. Key problems and shortcomings are noted. A small number of key urban design issues are noted on plan.

 Central and East Kowloon Development Statement (1998)

5.2.35  Landscape - The Central and East Kowloon Development Statement - Final Report provides a brief textual analysis of different land uses, which cover a number of landscape issues, including quarries, waterfront areas, undeveloped land, open space.

5.2.36  Townscape - There is analysis in plan format of building age and building height (Figures 4-5). Brief text identifies key urban design issues in terms of :

5.2.37  Detailed urban design and landscape proposals are made for selected areas within the study area as well as a Landscape, Recreation and Pedestrian Circulation Action Plan for the entire area.

 Government Technical Studies

 Environmental Impacts Assessments (EIAs)

5.2.38  Landscape and visual impact assessments (LVIAs) have been carried out in Hong Kong for a number of years as part of the wider EIA process. Predominant professional practice has been to identify impacts on landscape character as part of this process, as part of which an analysis of existing landscape character and resources is required.

5.2.39  Preparation of LVIAs was formalised under the Environmental Impact Assessment Ordinance (Ord.No.9 of 1997) and its accompanying Technical Memorandum in 1998. Prior to this, there was considerable variation in the amount and quality of data included in LVIAs. After the Ordinance came into force, there has been a more consistent level of recorded data on landscape resources and character. Yet there remain often considerable differences in depth and scale of data recording between different project (as is inevitable where projects are of different scales). An example of these discrepancies is in the recording of landscape units and landscape character. Certain LVIAs include landscape character areas only. Others use what could more accurately be described as landscape character types. Even in the case of LCAs, there is often a difference in the scale at which they are recorded (which is a legitimate professional decision made on the basis of the scale and type of the landscape, the scale of the project and the judgement of the professionals concerned).

5.2.40  Further problems with using LVIAs as a data source on landscape include their patchy coverage and the fact that many are now partly out of date, having been superseded by the pace of development in Hong Kong.

 Other Government Studies

5.2.41  Other studies commissioned by Government may contain relevant data on landscape resources and character. In particular, the new town studies often contain assessments of pre-existing landscape conditions, many of these in considerable detail, such as the Tai Po Landscape and Recreation Study 1979. Such studies are useful in offering methodological insight and in identifying a scale which might be most appropriate for landscape assessment in Hong Kong. However, in most cases, the landscape has changed so much after the construction of the new town, that the actual data within the studies is of only limited value.

 Other Literature

5.2.42  In addition to Government commissioned technical studies and research, there remains a limited literature produced for the general public on the Hong Kong landscape and townscape. These fall broadly into technical literature and 'recreational' literature. Useful technical literature includes general studies on the geography and ecology of Hong Kong, such as Hills and Streams, An Ecology of Hong Kong (Dudgeon and Corlett, 1994), A Geography of Hong Kong (Chiu, 1983), The Soils and Agriculture of Hong Kong (Grant, 1962). The Urban Council of the Hong Kong Government has also published an extremely useful series of technical guides on the flora, fauna and earth sciences of Hong Kong.

5.2.43  Of the 'recreational literature', a number of studies in English have been produced which offer insights, descriptions and secondary historical information on the Hong Kong landscape. Of particular note are The Hong Kong Countryside (Herklots, 1951), Hong Kong's Wild Places (Stokes, 1995), Across Hong Kong Island (Stokes, 1998), the Coastal Guides Series (Friends of the Earth, various), and The Green Dragon (Williams ed., 1994).

5.2.44  Covering the urban area, there are few non-historical books which deal with the urban landscape. There are numerous pictorial books have been published aimed at the recreational reader, notably the 'Over Hong Kong' series. These provide a limited amount of useful information, although much is quickly out of date. Studies of some interest are Mapping HK (Gutierrez and Portefaix, 2000) which deals with the townscape of Hong Kong from a 'popular geography' approach.

5.2.45  Considerable Historic data on the Hong Kong landscape and townscape is available in the popular literary sources. These range from historic maps in Mapping Hong Kong (Empson, 1992) to the series of historic photographs published by former Urban Services Council in City of Victoria - A Selection of the Museum's Historical Photographs (Ho ed., 1994)

5.2.46  In summary, the technical literature relevant to the Hong Kong landscape provides useful supplementary material or commentary, which will be of considerable help in the Study. Of the recreational literature, those documenting the history of the townscape and landscape through maps, photographs and paintings will be of considerable use in tracing the development of the Hong Kong landscape and townscape. Other literature is of some value, though this is limited by an often unscientific approach, piece-meal coverage and by the fact that in Hong-Kong's rapidly changing landscape, much of it is quickly out-of-date.



5.3.1    GIS is an established technology widely used throughout Hong Kong within Government departments and bureaux, companies and educational institutions. A variety of data exists within these organisations which unfortunately, because of different project requirements and the lack of a commonly adopted data standard, is of varying quality. 

5.3.2    Within Government it is often difficult to find out what data exists. This is partially due to the fact that the potential value of data to external parties is not recognised by the custodians with the result that they rarely publicise its existence. Fortunately, some departments such as the Lands Department (LandsD) have recognised that their data is valuable to others and have successfully implemented mechanisms for data distribution. Other initiatives such as PLB's Data Alignment Strategy aim to make organisations aware of the availability and location of public data. A variety of GIS software systems are being used in Hong Kong the main two of which are ESRI's ArcGIS suite and Integraph's GeoMedia range of products.

5.3.3    The main government departments with significant GIS capabilities include CSD, DSD, FSD, HKPF, HA/HD, WSD, LandsD, PlanD, CED, AFCD, EPD, TD and HyD. Of these, LandsD was among the first to recognise the benefit of storing data in GIS format. Over the last decade, it has converted topographic survey maps at scales of 1:1,000-1:50,000 to GIS format. PlanD have also led the field with a number of studies, this one included, with important GIS outputs. As different data are made available, they can be used to assist with other projects drastically reducing the time needed to complete then. For example this project is likely to use outputs from the SUSDEV21 study such as habitat maps and digitised archaeological site boundaries. The expense of having to reproduce these while not considerable is still significant. This common element of cost saving seems to be one of the main attractions in using GIS to assist with projects.

5.3.4    GIS based projects that have been conducted in Hong Kong range in size from project level to territory wide. The level of detail also varies greatly. Projects conducted by government with a GIS component of note include LandsD's topographic data capture program, PlanD's SUSDEV21, CED's many natural terrain hazard studies, EPD's efforts in noise and air modelling and also dredging studies, TD's and HyD's projects for asset management and intelligent transport systems and AFCD's habitat mapping work. Numerous other examples exist but these serve to illustrate the variety in application of GIS technology.

5.3.5    The Hong Kong GIS Association (HKGISA) is the organisation to which most GIS professionals in Hong Kong belong. The objectives of the Association are to promote interest and advancement in GIS in Hong Kong.




5.4.1    Maps that show the extent of ecosystems and habitats and locate species records can be a useful indication of possible high value landscapes, because in general high value habitats are often natural in appearance. However caution is required in interpreting ecological maps in terms of landscape value. Although many natural landscapes (for example mature forests of native species) are considered to be highly attractive and are also of high ecological value, some places that would normally be considered eye-sores (for example derelict industrial sites) may be colonised by rare flora and fauna and may also develop high ecological value. Conversely, apparently natural-looking landscapes (for example forests of planted non-native trees or some reservoirs) may have relatively low ecological value but may be highly valued for their appearance.

 Hong Kong Experience

5.4.2    No comprehensive, territory-wide survey of habitats based on site visits has been undertaken, however the World Wide Fund for Nature Hong Kong (formerly the World Wildlife Fund Hong Kong) (WWFHK) (1989 - data published 1993) have used aerial photography to map habitats at 1:50,000 scale. This work has proven useful in determining the extent and location of extensive vegetation belts (for example upland forests and grasslands) but is of limited use in identifying small scale features and is now rather outdated. The SUSDEV21 Study (2000) also maps habitats on a territory-wide basis, but shows greater detail than the WWFHK study.

5.4.3    Government maintains a schedule of Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs) which are notified for their ecological or geological importance. SSSIs are shown on Outline Zoning Plans, which are available in digital format. Many of the SSSIs are natural features of both high ecological and landscape value (for example Ma On Shan). Others (for example some egretries) may not be of outstanding landscape value, being only one of several similar features in a particular district.

5.4.4    The Hong Kong University Department of Biodiversity and Ecology (1999) has undertaken a territory-wide study of biodiversity (entitled A Biodiversity Survey of Hong Kong). Although coverage is variable, records of species of flora and fauna, some common and others, rare are shown on plans, which are in GIS format. Rare species (most notably trees) particularly those associated with ancient habitats (mainly woodland) may be of use in identifying wooded landscapes of outstanding value.

5.4.5    AFCD have commissioned a Wetland Compensation Study, which includes a territory-wide survey of wetlands. The larger wetlands (for example Mai Po and Long Valley) are relatively well known and form distinct landscapes. Much of Hong Kong's wetland consists of small fragmented sites (for example abandoned paddies in villages) which may not have the obvious appearance of a wetland or which may be intimately associated with another landscape type (for example an abandoned paddy as a clearing in a secondary forest). Such small wetland sites may not be large enough to be considered a distinct landscape division.

5.4.6    The sub-regional strategic planning studies commissioned by PlanD (for example those for NWNT, NENT and SENT) identify sites of high ecological importance in each region. These studies identify rural areas often considered worthy of conservation on the basis of 'naturalness' which implies high ecological value. Usually these areas are also of outstanding natural beauty (for example much of the Sai Kung coastal area is both visually attractive and of ecological value).

5.4.7    There are many EIAs which include mapping and evaluation of habitats within 500m of the project boundary. In the case of large infrastructure projects this means that the area mapped may be extensive. However such studies are likely to be of limited value in territory-wide landscape value mapping unless previously unknown or little appreciated features have been identified.

 Useful References

5.4.8    In conclusion, the most useful references on the mapping of habitats in Hong Kong are as follows: 



5.5.1    With the exception of the Antiquities and Monuments Office (AMO), who hold some digital data and a few project specific databases, mapping of cultural heritage resources1 in Hong Kong has been carried out manually by professionals, cultural heritage organisations, government departments such as the Hong Kong Archaeological Society, the Public Record Office, Lands Department, local museums and local and overseas tertiary institutions.

5.5.2    Since 1971, the AMO has been responsible for the management of the cultural heritage resources in Hong Kong. In the mid 1980s, a Territory Wide Archaeological Survey was undertaken to identify and map these archaeological resources2. While the results of this survey were the most comprehensive to that date, lack of resources meant that full coverage was unachievable.

5.5.3    In the 1990s, a second survey was undertaken by the AMO to update their cultural heritage inventory in which 8,000 to 9,000 pre-1950s standing historical sites and features and new archaeological sites. It is still believed that many archaeological sites may have been missed. This has led to new predictive methods of site identification discussed below. The results of this survey exist on hardcopy maps.

5.5.4    In the SUSDEV21 study (1998) 67 declared monuments, 8 deemed monuments, 457 listed graded historical buildings and 206 archaeological sites from the 1990s surveys were input to a GIS. The purpose of this was to allow decision support to development planning to ensure that adverse impacts on sensitive cultural heritage areas could be avoided.

5.5.5    The sites collected under the SUSDEV21 study were considered those of most cultural heritage value. The remaining sites, which are held by AMO and not available for public viewing, are currently under review and it is possible that some may be upgraded to categories collected under the SUSDEV21 study.

5.5.6    Recently, in addition to the traditional mapping of known or identified cultural heritage sites, new techniques for identifying archaeological sites have been developed based on predicting archaeological potential. In Hong Kong, this was first applied as part of the West Rail cultural heritage impact assessment to establish archaeological potential along the rail alignment3. Having established the likelihood of occurrence of archaeological sites, a decision as to whether field investigation should be carried out can be made. Field-work should confirm the existence or non-existence of sites.

5.5.7    The approach adopted for the West Rail project is considered effective and has subsequently been applied in other projects. An intensive archaeological field investigation was undertaken by The Hong Kong Archaeological Society (HKAS) in Lam Tsuen Valley in 2000. The team analysed the natural environment, social and cultural factors of the area, created layers of information for these which they then combined to form archaeological potential area maps. Sixteen archaeological potential areas were identified and subsequent field investigation carried out on four of these. Of these four, all contained features of archaeological significance. These are currently being review by the AMO.

5.5.8    An archaeological field investigation was undertaken as part of the Planning and Development Study on NENT for TDD and PlanD in 1998-2001. Desktop information was analysed and mapped to indicate levels of archaeological potential within the study area. Based on the mapping, the subsequent scope of fieldwork was defined. The field-work is now complete however the results are not yet available. EIAs for other recent major projects may also contain useful information.

5.5.9    Apart from AMO, the following organisations also hold maps of cultural heritage resources.

 The Hong Kong Archaeological Society

5.5.10  The society keeps all archaeological records from its research and keeps all the raw data from local archaeological investigations including maps, field records and archaeological finds for work carried out prior to 1971. The Society also publishes the Journal of Hong Kong Archaeological Society to present their archaeological and cultural heritage findings. However, since the Antiquities and Monument Ordinance (Cap. 53) was implemented in 1971 which states that the ownership of every relic discovered in Hong Kong after the commencement of the Ordinance belongs to the Government from the moment of discovery, all the post -1971 finds and archaeological investigation records of the Society are passed to AMO for record.

 Public Record Office

5.5.11  The PRO keeps archives which have sufficient administrative, legal, financial or research value to be retained permanently. Archive materials include: military records, Japanese Administration archives during their occupation in Hong Kong, internment camp records, diaries, war-time records, old maps and old photographs of Hong Kong.

 Survey and Mapping Office of the Lands Department

5.5.12  The SMO keeps all maps prepared by the Government for various purposes. The earliest traceable maps date to 1840s. Maps which may contain information with some cultural heritage value include:

 Local Museums

5.5.13  Museums often house various types of historical collections such as historical photographs, artefacts, maps, videos, old books etc donated from private owners.

 Local and overseas libraries (4)(5)

5.5.14  The best entry points for cultural heritage resources held in the libraries are the Hong Kong Special Collection Library in Hong Kong University and the Chinese University. These libraries house comprehensive collections of historical materials related to Hong Kong including bibliographies, government publications and records, manuscripts, newspapers, directories, almanacs, pictures, biographies, audio-visual materials, microfilms, historical photos, posters related to Hong Kong, publications on Hong Kong history and theses on Hong Kong studies by undergraduates as well as postgraduates of the Universities, in which various kind of maps are contained.

5.5.15  Besides local libraries, overseas libraries and institutions also keep maps relating to Hong Kong in particular the military records and maps. The entry points include:


(1)     Cultural Heritage Resource in Hong Kong mainly divided into two categories: Archaeological sites and (standing) historical building and features.

(2)     Peacock, B A V & Nixon, T J P (1986) Report of the Hong Kong Archaeological Survey (unpublished). Hong Kong: Antiquities and Monument Office.

(3)     Marsden, P.R. (1997) Heritage Impact Assessment: Methodologies and Opportunities in Proceedings of the International Conference on Heritage and Education,Hong Kong 17-18 December 1997.    

(4)     Ting, S p & Siu, L K ed. (1990) Collected Essays on Vrious Historical Materials for Hong Kong Studies.  Hong Kong Urban Council

(5)     Expson, Hal (1992) Mapping Hong Kong : A Historical Atlas.  Hong Kong Government


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