Historically known as the ‘Closed Area’, the northern part of the New Territories has great potential for addressing Hong Kong’s land supply shortage and building stronger connections with Shenzhen. The New Territories North (NTN) project* represents a significant milestone, laying the foundation for the future development of a modern new town.

Covering a study area of 5,300ha, the NTN project is the largest preliminary planning and engineering feasibility study ever conducted in Hong Kong. Its objectives include creating opportunities for people and businesses, enhancing accessibility and connectivity and fostering urban-rural-nature integration.

Arup proposed the Smart Green Resilient (SGR) approach for this meso-scale spatial planning project, addressing practical concerns alongside major environmental issues. It ensures long-term resilience in urban planning strategies, masterplans and sustainability frameworks across various contexts. Today, the SGR approach is recognised as a key component of Hong Kong's city strategy.

An exemplar model

Instead of adopting the ‘conventional approach’ where disciplines contribute separately with little integration, Arup proposed the SGR approach to ensure early interdisciplinary dialogues that guided the entire study process.

The SGR approach is a ‘cognitive prism’ that weaves three prime objectives – people-oriented, contemporary relevance and future-proof – into an array of solutions.

Considering the development vision of the NTN, specific site conditions and international best practices, these three objectives have been translated into 76 measures under the themes of waste, water, energy, transport, ICT, low-carbon and urban agriculture. 

Multi-criteria decision analysis for development area selection

To scientifically determine the extents of the potential development areas (PDAs) with SGR objectives in mind, a multi-criteria decision analysis method was developed under six categories, 14 quantifiable factors and over 100 data points to ensure comprehensive consideration of various factors.

A geographic information system platform was then established to conduct refined raster analysis and facilitate informed discussions among stakeholders. Three contiguous PDAs were subsequently identified for further actions.

Job creation through capacity building

To identify industries with high potential for the NTN, we holistically reviewed key macro trends including the emergence of the new economy, the growth of high-value manufacturing and tertiary sectors in mainland China, the aging population and the narrowing regional income gap.

Using a population-based top-down approach and a sector-based bottom-up approach, we simultaneously analysed data to determine the expected number of future job opportunities.

Based on these findings, we proposed to address the existing one-way commuting pattern in Hong Kong by enhancing employment capacity in the NTN and facilitating inter-city commuting.

Concept plans with scenario-testing approach

By envisioning different scenarios of population growth, job opportunities and infrastructure development in the NTN, we identified two highly desirable options to formulate concept plans for the three PDAs.

We also employed an implementation roadmap approach to design an integrated green infrastructure system. For example, based on a cavern suitability map and implementation considerations, we proposed ten infrastructure facilities to be situated in caverns, freeing up about 13ha of land while reducing the environmental impact associated with ‘not in my backyard’ uses.

Far-reaching influence

The SGR approach for the NTN project has won the Grand Award at the International Society of City and Regional Planners (ISOCARP) Award for Excellence 2022.

The NTN project has generated significant impacts that extend beyond the study area. The recommendations have been swiftly incorporated as one of the two strategic growth areas in the ‘Hong Kong 2030+: Towards a Planning Vision and Strategy Transcending 2030’ plan.

This innovative approach has also set a great example for subsequent development plans of the Northern Metropolis, promoting integrated and smart planning for a more sustainable and livable community. 

* Note: The actual plan is subject to change based on further government’s studies

The New Territories North project in Hong Kong takes a strategic, outcome-focused ‘Smart Green Resilient’ approach to large-scale spatial planning. Based on multi-criteria analysis and scenario-testing while enabling early interdisciplinary collaboration, the approach serves as an exemplary model for leveraging smart planning methodologies. With its developed set of integrative and evidence-based methods, the NTN project contributes to future development strategies and project standards in the region.

ISOCARP Jury Assessment

Smart Green Resilient

The SGR approach is a 'cognitive prism' that was developed by Arup. The three-in-one thinking provides an overarching conceptual framework to enhance the urban planning process while responding to today's environmental, economic and social challenges.

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