Provisional Legislative Council
PLC Paper No. CB(1) 1330
(These minutes have been
seen by the Administration)
Ref : CB1/BC/7/97
Bills Committee on
Roads (Works, Use and Compensation) (Amendment) Bill 1998, Foreshore and Sea-bed (Reclamations) (Amendment) Bill 1998, and Town Planning (Amendment) Bill 1998
Minutes of meeting held on Friday, 13 February 1998, at 4:30 pm in Conference Room B of the Legislative Council Building
Members present :
Hon YUEN Mo (Chairman)
Dr Hon Raymond HO Chung-tai, JP
Hon LEE Kai-ming
Hon Ronald ARCULLI, JP
Hon Howard YOUNG, JP
Hon IP Kwok-him
Hon Ambrose LAU Hon-chuen, JP
Members absent :
Hon HO Sai-chu, JP
Hon Edward HO Sing-tin, JP
Hon MA Fung-kwok
Hon KAN Fook-yee
Hon CHOY So-yuk
Public officers attending :
- Mr Kevin HO
- Deputy Secretary for Transport
- Mr Esmond LEE
- Principal Assistant Secretary for Planning,
- Environment and Lands (Lands)
- Mr Wilson FUNG
- Principal Assistant Secretary for Planning,
- Environment and Lands (Planning)
- Mr J S Corrigal
- Principal Government Land Agent (Specialist)
- Lands Department
- Mr J D SCOTT
- Senior Assistant Law Draftsman
- Department of Justice
- Mr Raymond CHIU
- Assistant Director of Planning
Clerk in attendance :
- Ms Estella CHAN
- Chief Assistant Secretary (1)4
Staff in attendance :
- Ms Bernice WONG
- Assistant Legal Adviser 1
- Mr Andy LAU
- Senior Assistant Secretary (1)6
I Election of Chairman
Members agreed that Mr LEE Kai-ming should preside over the election of Chairman. Mr LEE Kai-ming invited nominations for the chairmanship. Mr YUEN Mo was nominated by Mr Ambrose LAU Hon-chuen and seconded by Dr Raymond HO Chung-tai. Mr YUEN Mo accepted the nomination.
2. There being no other nomination, Mr YUEN Mo was declared Chairman of the Bills Committee. The Chairman took over the chair for the meeting.
II Meeting with the Administration
3. At the invitation of the Chairman, the Deputy Secretary for Transport (DS for T) briefed members that the Roads (Works, Use and Compensation) (Amendment) Bill 1998, Foreshore and Sea-bed (Reclamations) (Amendment) Bill 1998 and Town Planning (Amendment) Bill 1998 (the Bills) shared a common objective of setting a statutory time limit of nine months for dealing with objections under the Roads (Works, Use and Compensation) Ordinance (Cap. 370), the Foreshore and Sea-bed (Reclamations) Ordinance (Cap. 127) and the Town Planning Ordinance (Cap. 131). The proposed amendments followed the statutory time limit for dealing with objections in the Railways Ordinance (59 of 1997) and the policy intent was to speed up the statutory procedures to facilitate the provision of infrastructure to meet the demand of the Chief Executive's target of supplying 85,000 flats/year. He said that there had been cases in the past whereby objectors had deliberately deployed a delaying tactic in their discussion with Government on their objections by producing seemingly new arguments at the last word stage. A statutory time limit would therefore give a clear signal to all parties concerned that Government was determined to resolve the objections within a reasonable time limit. In connection with the imposition of the statutory time limit, all three Bills also proposed transitional provisions for road schemes, reclamation proposals or draft plans promulgated prior to the commencement of the Bills.
4. The Principal Assistant Secretary for Planning, Environment and Lands (Planning) (PAS/PEL(P)) added that the Town Planning (Amendment) Bill 1998 additionally provided for complementary measures to enable the Town Planning Board (TPB) to resolve objections within the proposed statutory time limit by empowering the TPB to set up Committees from among its members to hear objections either individually or collectively.
Statutory time limit for dealing with objections
5. Some members were concerned about whether nine months would be sufficient for resolving all the objections. DS for T advised that the statutory time limit was drawn up having regard to the time required for dealing with the statutory procedures and the fact that most of the objection cases in the past were resolved within nine months. He assured that under exceptional circumstances, the Chief Executive in Council might allow a further period for dealing with complicated objection cases after the expiration of the nine-month period. The Assistant Director of Planning added that the time required for processing objections to a draft plan would vary depending on the nature of each case but the proposed statutory time limit would speed up the processing of such objections.
6. Regarding the existing mechanism in dealing with objections, DS for T advised that when the two-month statutory time limit for raising objections to a road scheme had expired, the Government would try to resolve the objections through discussion with the objectors concerned. Without prejudice to the interest of other people and the programme of the project, the Administration would examine the feasibility of revising the scheme with a view to resolving the objections. If it was subsequently decided that the scope of the project should be modified, the revised proposal would need to be gazetted again. Having fully considered the objections, the Administration would then submit any unwithdrawn objections to the Chief Executive in Council for a decision.
Town Planning (Amendment) Bill 1998
7. Mr Ronald ARCULLI pointed out that the proposal to empower TPB to appoint Committees among its members to hear objections under relevant sections of the Town Planning Ordinance had been proposed in the Town Planning (Amendment) Bill 1995. The proposal was subsequently voted down at the Second Reading debate. In order to facilitate members' understanding, he requested the Clerk to circularize the relevant background information to members for reference.
(Post meeting note : The relevant information was circulated to members after the meeting vide PLC Paper No. CB(1) 972 dated 18 February 1998.)
8. In view of the objection raised by the former Legislative Council that the setting up of Committees did not address the concern about fairness, particularly in relation to the composition and operational procedures of objection hearing committees, Mr ARCULLI queried the justification for introducing the Town Planning (Amendment) Bill 1998 at this juncture. He said that the TPB was functioning without a set of rules of procedure. In some cases, members of the TPB did not sit through the relevant meeting(s), resulting in different members attending different parts of the meeting(s) to consider objections to the same draft plan. Furthermore, the hearing of objections to draft plans was conducted by the same body (i.e. TPB) which prepared the plans. Against this background and having regard to the small membership of the Committees, he casted doubt on the creditability of appointing Committees to hear objection cases under such circumstances.
9. PAS/PEL(P) advised that the dispute over the revamp of the planning legislation in Hong Kong was not simply confined to the setting up of objection hearing committees. In July 1996, the Administration issued a Town Planning White Bill to consult the public on how the Town Planning Ordinance should be overhauled. Public views collected on the White Bill were diverse and on some issues conflicting, for example, the demand for higher efficiency versus the demand for more consultation to enhance transparency and openness of the operation of the TPB. The Administration was still considering the various views expressed, particularly those on controversial issues, and how these differences of opinions could be satisfactorily resolved. The Administration's target was to introduce a balanced proposal into the first Legislative Council of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region for consideration.
10. As to whether the Bill was essential, PAS/PEL(P) advised that to dovetail with Government's commitment to implementing the enhanced housing development programme with timely provision of the necessary infrastructure, it was necessary to introduce an amendment to the Town Planning Ordinance to time-limit the period within which objections to draft plans should be fully considered and, if unwithdrawn, be submitted to the Chief Executive in Council for a decision. Presently, the TPB handled more than 200 objection cases each year and the setting up of Committees would, no doubt, facilitate the work of the TPB in speeding up the processing of objection cases. He further said that if the proposed statutory time-limit was implemented, plans which, according to past experience, might take four or more years to process could in future be made within a shorter period of time. Given that this was one of the proposed changes in the Town Planning White Bill that had received widespread support, the Administration would like to enact this amendment first in order to improve the efficiency of the plan-making system. After all, the proposed statutory time limit would correspond with similar provisions in the Roads (Works, Use and Compensation) (Amendment) Bill 1998, Foreshore and Sea-bed (Reclamations) (Amendment) Bill 1998 and the Railway Ordinance.
11. PAS/PEL(P) further said that the setting up of Committees was a complementary measures to enable objections to be resolved within nine months. Members of the Committees were elected from among members of the TPB. To enlarge the membership of a Committee might have implication on the quorum and hence, the present proposal of requiring a Committee to have not less than five members with a quorum of three was considered appropriate.
12. Given that the policy intent was to speed up the delivery of major infrastructural development throughout the territory, Mr ARCULLI queried the reason for not imposing a time limit on the extension period that the Chief Executive in Council could grant for dealing with objections to works under the related ordinances. In reply, PAS/PEL(P) said that flexibility had been built in to allow the Administration to seek the Chief Executive's approval for an extension of the time limit to cater for special cases which required more processing time. In this connection, the responsible Bureau would need to justify each and every case. Given that there was no statutory time limit for resolving an objection case at present, the proposed provisions in the three Bills would be an improvement over the existing arrangement.
13. Members noted that the Law Society of Hong Kong had indicated that they would like to make a submission on the Town Planning (Amendment) Bill 1998.
14. Members noted that no separate consultation exercise had been conducted in respect of the Town Planning (Amendment) Bill 1998 but a consultation exercise in respect of the Town Planning White Bill was conducted in July 1996.
15. Having noted the concerns expressed by some members about the Town Planning (Amendment) Bill 1998 and that the other two Bills were not as controversial, members enquired about the implications of processing these three bills separately. DS for T replied that the preparation of draft plans, commencement of reclamations and provision of road infrastructure were interrelated. Whilst the provision of road infrastructure might not always be dependent upon the first two elements, concurrent passage of the three Bills would be most desirable.
|16. After deliberation, Mr ARCULLI requested the Administration to consider the following:||Admin
- to impose a time limit on the extension period that the Chief Executive in Council could grant for dealing with objections to works under the related ordinances;
- to introduce an appeal mechanism to review the decisions of the Committees formed under the TPB; and
- to consider the views expressed by the former Legislative Council in respect of the proposal to empower TPB to appoint committees among its members to hear objections.
17. Members agreed to hold the next meeting on 19 February 1998 at 4:30pm to continue discussion with the Administration on the Bills. They also agreed to invite the Law Society of Hong Kong, the Hong Kong Institute of Architects, the Real Estate Developers Association of Hong Kong and other relevant bodies to make submissions and/or meet with the Bills Committee.
III Any other business
18. There being no other business, the meeting ended at 5:20 pm.
Provisional Legislative Council Secretariat
29 May 1998