Provisional Legislative Council

PLC Paper No. CB(1)470
(These minutes have been
seen by the Administration)


Panel on Planning, Lands and Works

Minutes of meeting held on Monday, 13 October 1997, at 9:45 am in the Chamber of the Legislative Council Building

Members present :

Hon Edward HO Sing-tin, JP (Chairman)
Hon KAN Fook-yee (Deputy Chairman)
Dr Hon Raymond HO Chung-tai, JP
Hon Ronald ARCULLI, JP
Dr Hon Charles YEUNG Chun-kam
Hon CHENG Kai-nam
Hon IP Kwok-him
Hon NGAN Kam-chuen

Members attending :

Hon Henry WU
Hon CHAN Wing-chan
Hon Mrs Miriam LAU Kin-yee, JP
Dr Hon LAW Cheung-kwok

Members absent :

Hon HO Sai-chu, JP
Hon LEUNG Chun-ying, JP
Hon LAU Wong-fat, JP
Hon CHOY Kan-pui, JP
Hon Timothy FOK Tsun-ting

Public officers attending :

Item I

Mr Bowen LEUNG, JP
Secretary for Planning, Environment and Lands

Mr Patrick LAU
Deputy Secretary for Planning, Environment and Lands (Lands and Planning)

Director of Planning

Director of Lands

Director of Buildings

For Item II

Mr LEE Shing-see, JP
Secretary for Works (Acting)

Mr Bernard M T LAM, JP
Director of Civil Engineering

Deputy Secretary for Works (Programme and Resources)

Clerk in attendance :

Miss Odelia LEUNG,
Chief Assistant Secretary (1)1

Staff in attendance :

Ms Pauline NG,
Assistant Secretary General 1

Mrs Mary TANG,
Senior Assistant Secretary (1)2

I.Policy briefing by Secretary for Planning, Environment and Lands on the Chief Executive's Policy Address 1997

1.The Secretary for Planning, Environment and Lands (SPEL) briefed members on Government's policy commitments in the major programme areas of the Planning, Environment and Lands Bureau.

Territorial Development Strategy Review

2.According to SPEL, the Administration had completed public consultation on the Territorial Development Strategy Review (TDSR) 1996 and had started the study on "sustainable Development for the 21st Century " , and feasibility studies on new cross-boundary transport links. It would shortly commence the integrated planning and engineering studies for strategic growth areas in Northwest New Territories (NWNT), Northeast New Territories (NENT) and Hong Kong Island South and Lamma Island with a view to providing sufficient land for the production of 124,000 units of residential flats.

3.In addition, the Administration would develop the following strategic growth areas-

--Au Tau- Kam Tin- Yuen Long South;
--Central- Wanchai Reclamation(Remainder);
--Fanling North- Kwu Tung;
--Green Island Reclamation;
--Hong Kong Island South;
--South East Kowloon;
--Tsuen Wan Bay Reclamation;
--Tseung Kwan O;
--Tung Chung-Tai Ho; and
--West Kowloon Reclamation.

This would produce sufficient land for supplying over 270,000 flats to house 700,000 people between 2006 and 2011.

4 .On the Chairman's enquiry about the compatibility of TDSR and the new housing strategy, SPEL made the following points-

  1. Due to the intensification of development in strategic growth areas in the New Territories, the original plans behind some development statements would need to be changed, particularly in NWNT and Southwest New Territories (SWNT). Hence, the NWNT Development Strategy Review planned under the previous parameters was held in abeyance pending the completion of the Integrated Planning and Development Study on NWNT in 2000. Meanwhile the SWNT Development Strategy Review was also put on hold pending the finalisation of TDSR and would be reactivated following the publication of TDSR Final Executive Report;

  2. Despite the aforementioned work, developments in the interim would still be guided by published Outline Zoning Plans for NWNT and SWNT and developers could still apply for lease modifications and rezoning of land where justified;

  3. The Integrated Planning and Development Study on NWNT to be completed by 2000 would take into account the target supply of housing distribution in strategic growth areas; and

  4. The Administration would strive to tie in infrastructure development with housing development in strategic growth areas.

5.SPEL added that a new round of TDSR would be conducted beginning 1998-99 to assess Hong Kong's future development needs in a wider regional perspective and a longer planning horizon, possibly up to 2026 and beyond.

6.On the creation of job opportunities in new strategic growth areas, particularly in NWNT and NENT where there would be intensive development, SPEL said that the Administration had been encouraging the development of industries and businesses in these areas. However, as 75% of jobs were based in the urban area, most people would need to travel there for work irrespective of where they lived. It would not be possible to apply social engineering to force people to change jobs to the vicinity of their homes. Nevertheless, the Administration would look at ways to create more job opportunities in new growth areas when undertaking TDSR follow-up actions.

Land disposal

7.On land disposal, SPEL stated that the Administration would provide annually a clear five-year land disposal programme comprising a firm programme for the first two years and an annual target of disposable land area under various use categories for the following three years.

Port back-up and open storage requirement

8.A member expressed concern about the shortage of storage and parking spaces for containers. She was worried that container storage spaces might be reduced to make way for housing development to meet the target supply of housing.

9.In response, the Director of Planning (D of P) assured members that many hectares of land in the NT had been zoned for open storage. Since some were private lots, it would be up to the owners to decide whether to lease the land for such purpose. The study on the development potentials in NWNT and NENT which would soon be underway would address the concern about balanced provision of land for housing and port-related activities.

10.Referring to a study on port back-up land and open storage requirements conducted in 1994, a member sought information on follow-up actions on the recommendation to use landfill sites for storage purpose. D of P replied that the recommendation had not been pursued because of the environmental problems associated with emission of toxic gas at these sites. On the use of reclaimed land at the Western Kowloon Reclamation area, SPEL confirmed that the site would be used to house the West Rail Station and its associated developments. The Administration intended to provide a midstream operation area at the Stonecutters Island with container storage spaces.

Infrastructure development

11.Noting a member's concern about the need for the provision of transport infrastructure to tie in with housing development and the increase in population density in a certain area, SPEL indicated that the capacity of the transport infrastructure would be a guiding factor in the Administration's planning of population density in an area. The Administration aimed at providing new towns with more comprehensive transport systems in order to attract people to move in. The planning of infrastructure development was based on the projected population of 8.1 million. SPEL further advised that the Hong Kong/Mainland Cross-Boundary Major Infrastructure Co-ordinating Committee would be established to handle a number of cross-boundary infrastructure projects. The Committee would hold its first meeting in Shenzhen on 16 October 1997. Members requested and the Administration agreed to convey to the Committee the need for transparency in its operation.

Urban renewal

12.As regards urban renewal, SPEL said that the Administration would set up an Urban Renewal Authority (URA) to replace Land Development Corporation with statutory powers to expedite urban renewal on a large scale and in a more comprehensive manner. Legislation would be introduced to facilitate land assembly to speed up urban renewal projects. Whether the new organisation would operate on commercial principles would be examined. An inter-departmental working group had been formed to consider the establishment of URA and to formulate its role vis-a-vis the Administration. It was intended that URA might apply for resumption direct to the Executive Council, thus avoiding the cumbersome procedure of routing through several departments. Sufficient resources would be allocated to URA with a view to expediting the process of urban renewal.

Building safety

13.On the concern about building safety, SPEL informed that the Administration would introduce legislation to implement the mandatory Building Safety Inspection Scheme (BSIS) which was under public consultation. The Administration would set up a $500 million Urban Rehabilitation Fund to provide low interest loans to eligible building owners to undertake inspection and repair works under the Scheme.

14.On the scope of application of BSIS, the Director of Buildings (D of B) said that fundamental criteria of including a building under BSIS were its conditions and acceptable risk. He confirmed that the Administration had yet to make a decision on the age of buildings subject to BSIS, pending the outcome of public consultation. Past records showed that about 80% of complaints received were against buildings aged 20 or over. Members requested and the Administration agreed to provide a breakdown on the number of complaints about building safety as against building age.

15.Responding to a member's concern about the problem of unauthorised building works (UBW), D of B stated that BSIS would assist in detecting the safety of UBWs. UBWs which posed a hazard to building safety would be demolished immediately, whereas those not posing an immediate danger would be cleared in accordance with the priority system set up in 1988.

Flood prevention

16.On flood prevention, members noted that Stage 1 works of the Shenzhen River Regulation Project had been completed and construction of Stage 2 works was in progress. These works were scheduled for completion by 2000. Feasibility studies were being commissioned for Stage 3 works which would include the reprovisioning of the control points at Lowu and Man Kam To. The Administration planned to implement in phases the recommended drainage improvement works upon the completion of the seven Drainage Master Plan Studies. In response to members, the Administration would provide a breakdown on the cost of major flood control projects valued at $2,100 million.

(Post-meeting note : A summary of major flood control projects with costs was provided by the Administration and was circulated to members vide PLC Paper No. CB(1)366.)

II.Policy briefing by Secretary for Works on Chief Executive's Policy Address 1997

17.The Secretary for Works (Acting) (S for W (Atg)) briefed members on Government's policy commitments in the principal programme areas of the Works Bureau.

Public works projects

18.On the monitoring role of the Architectural Services Department (ASD), S for W (Atg) explained that ASD had stringent control over the implementation of works projects. The delays in some projects were mostly attributed to financial and administrative problems associated with contractors themselves. The Administration would step up its monitoring role over the progress of works projects by paying close attention to the financial position of the contracting companies.

19.The Chairman pointed out that a number of contracting companies which succeeded in bidding government contracts were subsequently unable to complete the projects within budget because of rising operating costs. Some of them had run into financial trouble. He urged the Administration to closely monitor the situation, particularly in view of the fact that a lot of manpower and resources from the building industry would be mobilised to meet the target supply of housing in the next few years.

20.A member questioned the rationale of paying ASD a management fee for projects of the Municipal Councils amounting to 16% of the projects costs and enquired whether this fee would be refunded in the event of delay in completing the project due to poor management. S for W (Atg) explained that the fee covered the costs of detailed planning, supervision as well as management. The rate of charging had been agreed on between the Administration and the two Municipal Councils in 1970. These charges had recently been reviewed and were considered to be acceptable.

Construction site safety

21.Addressing members' concern about construction site safety, S for W (Atg) pointed out that the average accident rate for non-fatal accidents of all works contracts in 1996 was approaching the target of less than 60 accidents per 1,000 workers. This compared well with other countries in the Region. The Administration was striving to further improve construction site safety through a close monitoring system on the safety performance of public works contractors. Two major safety initiatives, i.e. the Pay for Safety Scheme and the Independent Safety Audit Scheme, were introduced in 1996 to encourage public works contractors to set up more efficient safety management systems and to enhance the standard of safety performance of contractors.

Slope safety

22.As regards slope safety, the Director of Civil Engineering (DCE) stated that the Geotechnical Engineering Office would continue to check the design of all new slopes to ensure that they met the required safety standard. He confirmed that the standard of safety had not changed over the years. Of the 60,000 slopes in Hong Kong, one-third were private slopes and two-thirds public slopes.

23.On the availability of geotechnical engineers, DCE assured members that there were sufficient geotechnical engineers in Hong Kong to undertake the slope safety works. The Administration would review the need to establish a registration system for geotechnical engineers under the Buildings Ordinance.

24.As regards introduction of a mandatory slope safety inspection scheme, DCE informed that the Administration would consider this upon the completion of the Systematic Identification of Maintenance Responsibility of Registered Slopes in the Territory in 1999. Reference would be made to the implementation of the mandatory Building Safety Inspection Scheme.

Water supply

25.Noting members' concern about the need to maintain water pipes, S for W (Atg) informed that the Administration had initiated an Asset Management Study to determine the conditions of underground assets (mainly pipes) and the maintenance strategy for the future. He also acknowledged that there was a slight deterioration of the quality of raw water from Dongjiang brought about by the rapid industrialisation of Southern China. He assured members that the Administration had all along been closely monitoring the water quality and was satisfied that this met the health standards stipulated by the World Health Organization. A close liaison was being maintained with the Guangdong authorities in ensuring the quality of water supplied. One of the options being considered was the construction of a conduit system which would convey water direct from Dongjiang, thus reducing the chances of pollution. The Administration noted a member's suggestion of considering the feasibility of provision of water supply from Szejiang and Beijiang.

The Airport Core Programme

26.On the progress of Airport Core Programme projects, S for W (Atg) said that the Government remained committed to opening the Chek Lap Kok airport and the Airport Railway in April and June 1998 respectively. He acknowledged the benefits of opening the airport and the airport railway at the same time. There had been close liaison between the Airport Authority and the Mass Transit Railway Corporation.

27.There being no other business, the meeting ended at 11:30 am.

Provisional Legislative Council Secretariat
10 November 1997