PLC Paper No. CB(1)15
(These minutes have been
Ref: CB1/PL/PLW/1 seen by the Administration
and cleared with the Chairman)
LegCo Panel on Planning, Lands and Works
Minutes of meeting
held on Tuesday, 15 April 1997, at 10:30 a.m.
in Conference Room A of the Legislative Council Building
Members present :
Hon Edward S T HO, OBE, JP (Chairman)
Hon Albert CHAN Wai-yip (Deputy Chairman)
Dr Hon Samuel WONG Ping-wai, OBE, FEng, JP
Hon CHOY Kan-pui, JP
Hon NGAN Kam-chuen
Hon SIN Chung-kai
Hon TSANG Kin-shing
Dr Hon John TSE Wing-ling
Member attending :
Hon CHAN Kam-lam
Hon CHAN Yuen-han
Hon Bruce LIU Sing-lee
Members absent :
Hon LAU Wong-fat, OBE, JP
Hon Ronald ARCULLI, OBE, JP
Hon James TO Kun-sun
Hon IP Kwok-him
Public officers attending :
- Items IV
- Mr Patrick LAU
- Deputy Secretary for Planning, Environment and Lands (Land and Planning)
- Mr Esmond LEE
- Principal Assistant Secretary for Planning, Environment and Lands/Lands
- Mr Edward LOK
- Assistant Director
- Mr Frank Philips
- Chief Estate Surveyor/Acquisition
- Item V
- Mr Patrick LAU
- Deputy Secretary for Planning, Environmental and Lands, Planning (Lands and Planning)
- Mrs Ava NG
- Government Town Planner
- Mr Ian MacNaughton
- Government Land Agents
- Mr T E Berry
- Principal Solicitor
Legal Advisory and Conveyancing Office
- Mr Raymond CHAN
- Assistant Director
Environmental Protection Department
- Mr P C WONG
- Chief Engineer/North Lantau
Territory Development Department
Attendance by invitation :
Hong Kong Institute of Planners
- Item IV
Hong Kong Institute of Surveyors
- Miss Iris TAM
- Miss Fiona LUNG
- Convenor, Public Affairs Committee
Hong Kong Institute of Real Estate Administration
- Mr Stephen IP
- Chairman, General Practice Division
- Mr Francis LAM
- Council Member, General Practice Division
- Mr Stephen YUEN
- Mr John HUI
- Vice President
- Mr Edmund HO
- Chairman of Public Affairs Sub-Committee
- Mr Stanley WONG
- Chairman of Academics Sub-Committee
Clerk in attendance :
- Miss Odelia LEUNG
- Chief Assistant Secretary (1)1
Staff in attendance :
- Mr Kenneth KWOK
- Senior Assistant Secretary (1)2
I Confirmation of minutes of meeting
(LegCo Paper No. CB(1)1169/96-97)
The minutes of the joint meeting with the LegCo Panel on Housing held on 24 January 1997 were confirmed.
II Date of next meeting and items for discussion
(List of outstanding items for discussion tabled)
Members agreed to discuss the following items at the next meeting to be held on 20 May 1997 -
- Design-and-build contracts administered by the Government; and
- Control over advertisement signboards.
III Information papers issued since last meeting
Members noted the following information papers issued since last meeting:
- Paper No. CB(1)1120/96-97 - letter from the Administration concerning the design of Pier 3 in Central and its supporting facilities.
- Paper No. CB(1)1144/96-97 - information paper from the Mass Transit Railway Corporation concerning the safety of pedestrians using the footbridge across the Hong Kong Station construction site.
In the light of legal advice from the Administration that the opening of the elevated walkway outside Pier 3 in the absence of a lift for the disabled had not contravened the Disability Discrimination Ordinance, Cap. 487, members requested the Legal Service Division to give second opinion.
IV Lead time for production of land and housing
(LegCo Paper No. CB(1)1232/96-97(02))
The Chairman reported that six professional bodies, namely the Hong Kong Institute of Planners (HKIP), the Hong Kong Institute of Surveyors (HKIS), the Hong Kong Institute of Real Estate Administration (HKIREA), the Hong Kong Institute of Architects (HKIA), the Hong Kong Institute of Engineers (HKIE) and the Real Estate Developers Association of Hong Kong (REDA) had been invited for views on the ways to shorten the lead time for production of land and housing. As of date, HKIP, HKIS, HKIREA, HKIE and REDA had made submissions.
Meeting with deputations
The Chairman welcomed representatives from HKIP, HKIS and HKIREA to the meeting and invited them to present their views.
Miss Iris TAM of HKIP explained HKIPs suggestions to reduce the lead time for production of land and housing as outlined in the submissions (LegCo Paper No. CB(1)1141 and 1185/96-97).
Outline Planning Studies and Preliminary Engineering Feasibility Studies
HKIP suggested that to reduce the time required for undertaking the Outline Planning Studies (OPS) and the Preliminary Engineering Feasibility Studies (PEFS) and to avoid overlap, there might be scope to combine these two Studies.
Town planning procedures
HKIP called for early implementation of the proposal in the Town Planning White Bill (TPWB) to impose a statutory time limit of nine months from expiry of the publication of the draft plan to its submission to the Governor-in-Council for approval. This proposal would effectively reduce the time required for the plan making process. At present, the process could be delayed by two to three years because of a single objection.
Resumption and clearance procedures
HKIP suggested that to tackle the problem of inadequate manpower resources in the Lands Department, the Administration should consider contracting out certain tasks relating to resumption and clearance.
HKIP suggested that one department, such as the Territory Development Department (TDD), should play a coordinating role in development. This would ensure the provision of resources and facilities in a coordinated manner.
Participation of private sector
HKIP suggested that to speed up the production of land and housing, the private sectors resources should be mobilised and utilized to ease the financial and manpower constraints in the public sector.
Mr Stephen IP of HKIS said that HKIS represented surveyors working in both the public and the private sectors. He briefed members on HKISs submission (LegCo Paper No. CB(1)1165/96-97).
HKIS identified several problem areas which had hindered the development process. Firstly, complicated consultation process increased planning and development time. To shorten the development time, some planning procedures could be done in parallel instead of sequentially. Secondly, the morale of professional staff working in the public sector was low because of the zero growth policy, inadequate in-house training, insufficient resources and increasing workloads. Thirdly, the Government lacked clear commitment in infrastructure developments. For example, the Government recently announced a proposed feasibility study concerning construction of a bridge linking Ting Kau and Chuk Ko Wan but could not provide any details such as its commencement and completion dates.
To shorten the lead time for production of land, HKIS suggested that procedures (a) ("Outline Planning Studies"), (b) ("Preliminary Engineering Feasibility Study"), and (c) ("EIA Procedures") referred to in the Administrations paper should be merged as one single procedure. Procedure (f) ("Detailed Design") should be integrated into procedures (a), (b), (c), (g) ("Land Formation") and (h) ("Building and Infrastructure Works"). In addition, the Government should speed up internal processing of resumption and reclamation projects. In HKISs view, it should only take 18 months from publication of a plan to resolution of objections in accordance with the various time limits under the Crown Land Resumption Ordinance (CLRO), Cap. 124. However, the Government needed 48 months to complete this process. This might be attributed to rigidity of government officials in handling compensation issues as they would be held accountable. Also, some officials insisted on minor points, overlooking the adverse effects on the whole development process.
Mr Stephen YUEN and Mr John HUI of HKIREA briefed members on their submission (LegCo Paper No. CB(1)1141/96-97). In gist, HKIREA suggested that to increase land supply, modification of land use, rezoning of non-residential areas into residential areas and increase of plot ratio should be considered. These means could shorten the time required for carrying out procedures (a) ("Outline Planning Studies") to (d) ("Town Planning Procedures under Existing Town Planning Ordinance") referred to in the Administrations paper. Since the infrastructures and the road systems in many areas such as West Kowloon and Mid Levels had improved, the density and plot ratios in these areas should be relaxed. This could help streamline procedure (e) "Works Procedures under Foreshore and Seabed (Reclamations) Ordinance (FSRO) or Clearance/Resumption". To improve the mechanism for resuming land, the Administration might consider upgrading Land Development Corporation to Urban Renewal Authority, shortening the waiting time for hearing of resumption cases in the Lands Tribunal from nine to six months and extending the Partition Ordinance, Cap. 352 to cover redevelopment projects. The Government should provide sufficient financial incentives for private owners to surrender their property for urban redevelopment.
HKIREA proposed the following measures to improve the development approval procedures -
- to impose a statutory time limit on each of the procedures;
- to designate the Planning, Environment and Lands Branch as the coordinating approval authority;
- to standardise the interpretation of common terms; and
- to devise a set of standardised criteria for processing and approving planning applications.
In HKIREAs view, implementation of the above measures would shorten the time required for production of land and housing by one-fourth to one-third. (The details of these measures were contained in a further submission of HKIREA circulated to members vide LegCo Paper No. CB(1)1310/96-97).
Members echoed the concern of the professional bodies on the importance of coordination among Government departments. To clarify the meaning of coordination, Mr IP said that HKISs main concern was the absence of a body who was in a position to resolve conflicting opinion among departments. Although different departments attended district land conferences to discuss development projects, the forum could not resolve conflicting opinions, which were often a cause for delay of projects.
The Chairman opined that there were two main reasons for the lack of coordination. Organizationally, no department had the authority to resolve conflicting professional opinions. Functionally, each department focused on its own sphere of work and did not bother to draw up an overall picture of a development project.
A member expressed disappointment over the long delay on the part of the Administration in introducing TPWB to improve the planning approval process. He sought the professional bodies view on the proposed nine-month period in TPWB for handling objections.
Miss TAM said that it might be ambitious to require resolution of objections in nine months. Nevertheless, she considered it worthwhile to test the viability of this time-frame. To speed up the process of hearing objections, TPWB proposed that the Town Planning Board might arrange special committees to conduct inquiries or group inquiries.
Some members doubted if departments had been vested with powers more than necessary to exercise statutory functions, for example, the power to determine the colour and height of a building. By way of illustration, the Chairman said that height restrictions unrelated to aviation safety were imposed in certain areas in Tseung Kwan O and West Kowloon Reclamation areas to achieve the effect of wave-like building pattern. Miss TAM responded that the Government would need such powers in certain situations such as to protect a historical site. Ideally, a statutory zoning plan should include information on designation of special design areas to which the public could raise objections. Personally, she considered it desirable to create a harmonious visual effect from the planning angle. As regards West Kowloon Reclamation areas, the height restrictions were only guidelines and were not statutory restrictions. Developers could and did submit applications for construction of buildings higher than the specified heights.
Members opined that it might be hard to draw a line between professional judgement and public interest in the exercise of power by government officials. Mr IP opined that like public servants, professionals also had a duty of care to the public. Public interest would be taken into account by professionals in discharging their duties. Problems arose because of a difference in professional opinions. It was therefore important to conduct consultation. Mr HUI echoed this view and called for wider public consultation on draft plans. He was of the view that should consultation be done properly at the initial planning stage, further consultation on details of individual projects would not be necessary. Mr Stanley WONG supplemented that land leases always imposed conditions on Design, Disposition & Height (DD & H) of buildings which were subject to interpretation by the Lands Department. The Administration often failed to process DD & H applications expeditiously to enable developers to meet the target completion date. Hence, most developers would commence building works prior to receiving DD & H approval. The Chairman opined that the DD & H clause was obsolete and should be abolished since restrictions on building works had been provided for in relevant ordinances.
Whilst members acknowledged the difficulties in resolving conflicting professional opinions, they in general considered that government officials should be conscious of the need not to over-step their authority to interfere with matters which fell outside their statutory duties. Members hoped that the departments concerned could exercise more flexibility in dealing with individual cases.
Meeting with the Administration
(LegCo Paper No. CB(1)1232/96-97(02))
Deputy Secretary for Planning, Environment and Lands/Lands & Planning (DS for PEL) informed members that the Secretary for Planning, Environment and Lands was arranging meetings with different professional bodies to collect their views on the subject. Different departments had also been requested to give comments. The Administration would provide a coordinated response to the submissions from the professional bodies and report to the Panel as soon as possible.
Members requested the Administration to include the following information in its response -
- the measures to streamline the procedures for production of land and development of both public and private housing;
- the details of any contemplated measures to improve the discharging of statutory functions in a flexible manner by the Environment Protection Department (EPD); and
- a list of housing projects handled by the Housing Project Action Team and measures taken to expedite these projects, in particular the further developments in Tin Shui Wai and Tin Shui Wai Reserve Zone.
The Chairman reiterated the professionals concern about inadequate resources in the relevant departments and called on the Administration to address this. Regarding members comments on the inflexibility of EPD in handling noise issue as far as developments were concerned, Assistant Director of EPD responded that the department noted members concern and would shortly consult the relevant professional institutes on a draft practice note with a view to improving the assessment process. In this connection, a member was of the view that the existing planning guidelines in accordance with which EPD assessed development applications should be reviewed.
In response to a member, Assistant Director of Buildings Department said that the department was reviewing the approval process with a view to streamlining it. The review had been completed internally. The department would consult professional bodies and intended to implement any recommended measures in two months time.
V Home Purchase Allowance
(LegCo Paper No. CB(1)1232/96-97(03))
At the invitation of the Chairman, DS for PEL briefed members on the paper. He said that taking into account members views expressed at the Finance Committee meeting on 19 July 1996, the Administration had revised the eligibility for Home Purchase Allowance (HPA). The main features of the revised proposal were as follows -
- HPA should be calculated on the basis of the vacant possession value of the property, namely, the cost of a replacement flat less the amount of statutory compensation assessed on the assumption that the property was vacant. Owner-occupiers and owners of tenanted flats would be paid HPA on this basis;
- An owner would be eligible for HPA for a maximum of two flats per resumption exercise in recognition of the fact that some owners might live in one flat and rent the other to generate income; and
- HPA should be assessed on the basis of a reasonably modern flat (about ten years old) of a comparable size of the resumed property in the same locality.
As to whether HPA would be paid to affected owners of commercial - cum-residential units, Chief Estate Surveyor/Acquisition (CES), Lands Department said that HPA would be payable for that portion of the unit which was for residential use only.
A member enquired if an owner would be eligible for HPA for more than two resumed units which were occupied by his/her immediate family members. CES responded that each owner would be eligible for HPA for two units at the most in a resumption exercise. The Administration would assess which two units would maximize the benefits of the owner and would offer him the highest HPA. However, the rule of two units per resumption exercise would not affect owners eligibility for HPA in another resumption case.
At the request of members, DS for PEL explained Enclosure 1 to the paper which illustrated the difference in HPA payable to owners of tenanted and vacant properties under the existing arrangement. He agreed with members view that the amount of HPA payable under the revised proposal should also be included in the paper and would provide such information in the paper to be submitted to the Finance Committee for consideration on 25 April 1997.
Members were of the view that the Administration should give more thought to various scenarios of joint ownership cases. A member opined that rather than following the rule to the letter, the Administration should adopt a flexible and lenient approach in cases where the premises resumed were the only source of income for owners.
The meeting ended at 12:20 pm.
Provisional Legislative Council Secretariat
8 July 1997
Last Updated on 21 August 1998