Provisional Legislative Council

PLC Paper No. CB(1) 1331
(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 Thursday, 19 February 1998, at 4:30 pm in Conference Room A of the Legislative Council Building


Members present :

Hon YUEN Mo (Chairman)
Dr Hon Raymond HO Chung-tai, JP (Deputy Chairman)
Hon LEE Kai-ming
Hon MA Fung-kwok
Hon Howard YOUNG, JP
Hon Ambrose LAU Hon-chuen, JP
Hon KAN Fook-yee
Hon CHOY So-yuk

Members absent :

Hon HO Sai-chu, JP
Hon Edward HO Sing-tin, JP
Hon Ronald ARCULLI, JP
Hon IP Kwok-him

Public officers attending :

Mr Johnny CHAN
Principal Assistant Secretary for Transport

Mr Wilson FUNG
Principal Assistant Secretary for
Planning, Environment and Lands (Planning)

Mr Esmond LEE
Principal Assistant Secretary for
Planning, Environment and Lands (Lands)

Mr Raymond CHIU
Assistant Director of Planning

Mr J D SCOTT
Senior Assistant Law Draftsman
Department of Justice

Attendance by invitation :

The Hong Kong Institute of Architects

Mr LAM Wo-hei
Chairman of Board of Local Affairs

Mr Dennis LAU
Member of Board of Local Affairs

The Real Estate Developers Association of Hong Kong
Mr Andrew CHAN
Mr S Y WAI

Hong Kong Institute of Planners

Mr Andrew LAM
Vice President

Ms Phyllis LI
Committee Member of Public Affairs Committee
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 Discussion among members

Election of Deputy Chairman

Members agreed that a Deputy Chairman should be elected to facilitate the work of the Bills Committee. The Chairman invited nominations for the Deputy Chairman. Dr Raymond HO Chung-tai was nominated by Mr LEE Kai-ming and seconded by Mr Howard YOUNG. Dr Raymond HO Chung-tai accepted the nomination.

2. There being no other nomination, Dr Raymond HO Chung-tai was declared Deputy Chairman of the Bills Committee.

II Discussion with deputations

3. The Chairman welcomed the representatives of the Hong Kong Institute of Architects, the Real Estate Developers Association of Hong Kong and the Hong Kong Institute of Planners to the meeting.

Hong Kong Institute of Architects

4. At the invitation of the Chairman, representatives of the Hong Kong Institute of Architects (HKIA) briefed members on their concerns about the Roads (Works, Use and Compensation) (Amendment) Bill 1998, the Foreshore and Sea-bed (Reclamations) (Amendment) Bill 1998 and the Town Planning (Amendment) Bill 1998 (the Bills). In brief, HKIA supported the principle of setting a statutory time limit for dealing with objections under the respective principal ordinances. They, however, expressed concern about the small membership of the Committees set up under the Town Planning Board (TPB) to hear objections, which might affect the credibility of the decisions made. They also commented that despite an improvement on the efficiency of objection hearing procedures, the Town Planning (Amendment) Bill 1998 failed to address other shortfalls in the existing planning system.

5. Referring to the Town Planning White Bill published in July 1996, HKIA indicated that they had serious reservations about the proposals. In this respect, HKIA, the Hong Kong Institution of Engineers and the Hong Kong Institute of Surveyors had jointly put forward a submission to the Administration. A copy of the joint submission was tabled at the meeting for members' reference. The Real Estate Developers Association of Hong Kong

6. Representatives of the Real Estate Developers Association of Hong Kong (REDA) advised that they would only comment on the Town Planning (Amendment) Bill 1998. Whilst REDA recognized that setting a statutory time limit for dealing with objections would be an improvement to the planning process, they made a further suggestion of imposing a time limit on the extension period that the Chief Executive could grant for dealing with objections to draft plans under the Town Planning Ordinance, as this open-ended provision might defeat the purpose of the Bill.

7. To address the question of fairness and credibility of the decisions made by Committees set up under TPB, REDA considered it more appropriate to set up an independent body to deal with objection cases rather than leaving TPB to judge its own cause. Alternatively, having regard to the small membership of the proposed Committees, REDA suggested that there should be an appeal mechanism whereby the decisions made by the Committees could be reviewed by the full TPB.

The Hong Kong Institute of Planners

8. At the invitation of the Chairman, representatives of the Hong Kong Institute of Planners (HKIP) briefed members on their concerns, which were mainly about the Town Planning (Amendment) Bill 1998. HKIP opined that the Bill was piecemeal in nature, covered only the objection procedures and failed to address many other important planning issues provided for in the Town Planning White Bill 1996. They would, however, support the present Bill in principle, provided that the Administration undertook to introduce a major Bill to revamp the Town Planning Ordinance in the first half of the next legislative session. Notwithstanding the above, it would be a separate matter as to whether HKIP would support the contents of the future Town Planning (Amendment) Bill, pending further deliberations on the proposals made. HKIP also requested the Administration to explain and reveal the various views expressed, particularly those on controversial issues in respect of the Town Planning White Bill 1996.

9. HKIP was also concerned about the implication of having a statutory time limit on the fair conduct of objection hearings. They would like the Administration to ensure that the hearings would be conducted in a fair and reasonable manner but would not be hastily carried out in order to meet the statutory time limit of nine months. Furthermore, TPB should not delegate its authority to a Committee to deal with controversial cases so as to avoid the situation where a Committee formed under TPB could repeal the decision of the full board.

III Discussion with the Administration

Statutory time limit

10. Referring to the suggestion of imposing a time limit on the extension period that the Chief Executive could grant for dealing with objections under the principal ordinances, the Principal Assistant Secretary for Planning, Environment and Lands (Lands) PAS/PEL (L) advised that before any objection was submitted to the Chief Executive in Council, the Administration had to try to resolve the objection through discussion with the objector concerned. In this regard, the Administration was obliged to provide the objector with a fair and reasonable opportunity to say his "last word" in accordance with a court ruling a few years ago. As such, arguments put forward by an objector had to be fully addressed and sufficient time should be given for the objector to present his case. In order to follow the requirement of handling all objections in a fair and reasonable manner, flexibility had been built in to allow the Administration to seek the Chief Executive's approval for an extension of the time limit after expiration of the nine-month period to cater for special cases which required more processing time. This would avoid the submission of premature cases to the Chief Executive in Council for a decision.

11. PAS/PEL(L) further said that the intent of the three Bills was to speed up the processing of objections in respect of road schemes, reclamation proposals and draft town plans, hence, the Administration would only seek the Chief Executive's approval for an extension of the time limit under very exceptional circumstances. The present proposals therefore aimed to strike a balance between speeding up the processing of objections on one hand and allowing objections to be dealt with in a fair and reasonable manner at all times on the other hand.

12. The Principal Assistant Secretary for Transport (PAS for T) advised that before any objection was submitted to the Chief Executive in Council, the Administration would seek legal advice to ensure that the arguments put forward by objectors had been fully examined and that a substantive reply had been given to address their concerns. Based on the current judiciary system, the Administration would need to be both fair and prudent because objectors could also apply for judicial review even upon the decision of the Chief Executive in Council. He assured members that the whole objection process would be conducted in an open, fair and reasonable manner.

13. PAS for T further advised that the proposed statutory time limit was drawn up having regard to past experience. He said that more than 80% of the objection cases in respect of road schemes could be resolved within nine months. Whilst the Administration had no intention of delaying road projects which had been gazetted, there should be a built-in flexibility to allow for extension of time. Since road projects might differ substantially in scale of work and complexity, different time might be required for discussing with objectors and examining the modification proposals.

14. Members noted that the proposed amendments under the Bills followed the statutory time limit for dealing with objections under the Railways Ordinance. Likewise, a similar provision had been made in the Railways Ordinance to empower the Chief Executive to extend the statutory time limit for dealing with complicated objection cases after expiration of the nine-month period.

15. Members also noted that the nine-month period for dealing with objections would run from the expiration of the two-month period for raising objections. However, in case a road project was modified and subject to re-gazettal, the Administration might be required to seek the Chief Executive's approval in less than nine months' time for extending the time limit for dealing with objections lodged under the Roads (Works, Use and Compensation) Ordinance, as provided for under Clause 2 (1) of the Roads (Works, Use and Compensation) (Amendment) Bill 1998.

Committees under TPB

16. Having noted the concerns expressed by REDA about the issue of fairness and credibility of the decisions made by TPB's committees, the Principal Assistant Secretary for Planning, Environment and Lands (Planning) (PAS/PEL(P)) advised that section 6 of the Town Planning Ordinance set out the procedures for consideration of objections. The setting up of Committees to hear objections would not lead to a situation where the decision of the full board would be overridden by that of a Committee formed under TPB. He said that the present provision was intended to empower TPB to set up Committees from among its members to hear objections either individually or collectively. In so doing, all objection cases would be presented to TPB in the first instance. It would be a matter for TPB to decide whether or not to set up Committees to assist its hearings, having regard to the merits of each and every case. The TPB would therefore maintain full control of the way in which an objection case would be dealt with.

17. Regarding the deputations' concern about the small Committee membership of not less than five members and the three-member quorum of meetings, which might affect the credibility of the decisions made, PAS/PEL (P) advised that the membership and quorum were proposed with reference to the existing provisions in the Town Planning Ordinance for appointment of other Committees of TPB. Whilst the legislation only laid down the minimum number of members required for a Committee, TPB would be empowered to decide on how these Committees should be formed, its membership and the final appointment. This would allow adequate flexibility for TPB to handle objections with a view to resolving them within nine months.

Review of the Town Planning Ordinance

18. Responding to the deputations' concern about the progress of the comprehensive review of the Town Planning Ordinance, PAS/PEL(P) said that when the Town Planning (Amendment) Bill 1998 was introduced into the Council on 11 February 1998, the Secretary for Planning, Environment and Lands had advised that the Administration would introduce legislation to re-vamp the Town Planning Ordinance, pending final decisions on the overhaul of the existing system. There was no intention of making use of the divergent views of the public on the Town Planning White Bill as an excuse to hold in abeyance the revision of the Town Planning Ordinance. As requested by a deputation, the various views expressed during consultation would be made known to the general public. Admin

Clause by clause examination

19. Members went through the Roads (Works, Use and Compensation) (Amendment) Bill 1998 clause by clause and raised no further question.

20. Members went through the Foreshore and Sea-bed (Reclamations) (Amendment) Bill 1998 clause by clause and raised no further question.

21. Members went through the Town Planning (Amendment) Bill clause by clause and noted that there was a typo error in Clause 2. The word ", (6B)" should be added after "(6A)" in the proposed new section 2A(1) of the Ordinance.

22. As to whether provisions had been made to protect the interest of objectors in attending hearings, for example, whether the hearings would be conducted at a reasonable time and whether adequate notices would be given to objectors, the Assistant Legal Adviser 1 (ALA1) advised that she had put forward a similar written question to the Administration on whether it was necessary to spell out clearly in the Ordinance that TPB was satisfied that a reasonable notice had been properly served in this regard. The Administration had replied that Section 6(6) of the Town Planning Ordinance enabled the Board to consider an objection at a meeting of which an objector was given reasonable notice. Like any statutory body, the Board was required to act reasonably and in good faith. As such, the provision should be read in conjunction with the proposed section 6(6A) and (6B) of the Town Planning Ordinance. ALA1 further advised that in the case of Kwan Kong Co Ltd v. Town Planning Board [1995]3 HKC 254, the court decided that the duty of the TPB to give consideration was confined to the statutory written statement of objection. Hence, it was not essential for an objector or his authorised representatives to attend the meeting of the TPB to be heard.

23. After deliberation, members maintained that the Administration should impose a time limit of six months on the extension period that the Chief Executive in Council could grant for dealing with objections under the principal ordinances. Mr KAN Fook-yee also suggested to spell out in the legislation a total period combining the initial and extended periods for dealing with objections so as to give a clear message to objectors on the deadline for processing their objections.

24. Members agreed that subject to the Administration's response to members' request for an amendment to the Bills to impose a limit on the extension period that the Chief Executive could grant for dealing with objections under the principal ordinances, an additional meeting might be held on 23 February 1998 at 2:30 pm.

IV Any other business

25. There being no other business, the meeting ended at 6:10 pm.


Provisional Legislative Council Secretariat
29 May 1998