Provisional Legislative Council

PLC Paper No. CB(1) 525
(These minutes have been
seen by the Administration)


Panel on Planning, Lands and Works

Minutes of meeting held on Friday, 24 October 1997, at 10:45 am in Conference Room A of the Legislative Council Building

Members present :

Hon Edward HO Sing-tin, JP (Chairman)
Hon KAN Fook-yee (Deputy Chairman)
Hon HO Sai-chu, JP
Hon Ronald ARCULLI, JP
Hon LEUNG Chun-ying, JP
Dr Hon Charles YEUNG Chun-kam
Hon IP Kwok-him
Hon CHOY Kan-pui, JP
Hon NGAN Kam-chuen

Members attending :

Hon NG Leung-sing
Hon Henry WU
Dr Hon LAW Cheung-kwok

Members absent :

Dr Hon Raymond HO Chung-tai, JP
Hon CHENG Kai-nam
Hon LAU Wong-fat, JP
Hon Timothy FOK Tsun-ting

Public officers attending :

Item IV and VI

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

Item IV

Mr Allan HAY
Government Land Agent/Task Force (Black Spot), Lands Department

Mr Wilson WONG
Principal Land Control Officer Lands Department

Chief Town Planner/Central Enforcement and Prosecution, Planning Department

Item V

Miss Emma LAU
Deputy Secretary for the Treasury

Mr Edward CHU
Principal Assistant Secretary for the Treasury

Mr Leonard LAW
Treasury Officer
Finance Bureau

Item VI

Assistant Director of Agriculture and Fisheries (Conservation)

Senior Ecological Assessment Officer (Terrestrial / North)
Agriculture & Fisheries Department

Clerk in attendance :

Miss Odelia LEUNG,
Chief Assistant Secretary (1)1

Staff in attendance :

Mrs Mary TANG,
Senior Assistant Secretary (1)2

I. Confirmation of minutes of meeting
(PLC Paper No. CB(1)370)

Referring to the minutes of the Panel meeting held on 26 September 1997, Mr LEUNG Chun-ying pointed out that as the information regarding the estimated inspection costs of the Building Safety Inspection Scheme was provided by the Administration, he suggested and members agreed to confirm the minutes subject to the addition of the following phrase to the beginning of the second sentence of paragraph 16-

" According to the estimate provided in the consultation paper ....... "

II.Date of next meeting and items for discussion

2.Members noted that the Administration had provided information on the review of the development approval process. They agreed to follow up on the subject at a joint meeting with the Housing Panel on 28 November 1997. The Chairman suggested that the Panel Clerk notify the building professionals of the arrangements for the joint meeting.

(Post-meeting note: The professional institutes and related building associations were notified of the joint meeting by letter on 3 November 1997.)

III.Information paper issued since last meeting

3.Members noted that no information paper had been issued since the last meeting.

IV.Task Force (Black Spots)
(PLC Paper No. CB(1)359(01))

4.The Principal Assistant Secretary for Planning, Environment and Lands (PAS/PEL) briefly explained the role of the Task Force (Black Spots) (TFB) in the Lands Department and the Central Enforcement and Prosecution Section (CEPS) in the Planning Department in the clearance of environmental black spots in the New Territories. TFB dealt with environmental black spots classified as existing uses (EUs), i.e. uses existing before 1991 or before publication of the relevant Interim Development Permission Area/Development Permission Area plan and were tolerated under the Town Planning Ordinance, Cap. 131, whereas CEPS dealt with enforcement actions against unauthorised developments (UDs). The Administration would continue its efforts to clean up environmental black spots and take enforcement actions against UDs.

5.With the aid of slides, the Government Land Agent/Task Force (Black Spots) (GLA/TFB) explained the progress of work in the clearance of environmental black spots. Referring to the photos attached to the Progress Report, the Chief Town Planner/Central Enforcement and Prosecution Section, Planning Department (CTP/CEP) confirmed in response to a member that the photos reflected the actual on-site situation. He further pointed out that owners/operators responsible for UDs could be required to reinstate the concerned land to its previous condition. Owners/operators who were not satisfied with the reinstatement requirements imposed could appeal to the Secretary for Planning, Environment and Lands.

6.As regards the length of time taken for improvements, CTP/CEP advised that owners/operators would normally be given three months to discontinue the UDs when served with statutory enforcement notices. On average, it would take about six months for cooperative UD owners/operators to result in satisfactory discontinuation of the UDs.

7.On the progress of work at the North District (East Action Area) (NDEAA), GLA/TFB advised that TFB intended to issue lease enforcement notifications to all EU undertakings within NDEAA before the end of this year, requiring private undertakers to comply with the requirements within three months from the date of notification. TFB would require the completion of improvement works within the stipulated time. He drew members' attention to the fact that these improvement works were effected through persuasion and that TFB was working closely with private owners and undertakers in seeking their co-operation in carrying out improvement works at their own expense.

8.On lease enforcement actions and their effectiveness, GLA/TFB confirmed that actions could be taken against any unauthorised structures within an undertaking under the second covenant of the Block Lease. However, because of the nature of these undertakings, lease enforcement actions could only result in the removal of flimsy structures without substantial environmental improvements. Instead TFB sought owners/operators' co-operation to self-improve. Short-term waivers were granted to allow the unauthorised structures to remain provided that the owners/operators agreed to operate their undertakings in a more responsible manner. GLA/TFB added that for some undertakings which were not operated by owners, while the operators might be willing to shoulder the cost of improving the site, some owners took advantage of the situation and demanded for a higher rent. This would discourage operators from making improvements. A lot of time and effort were therefore needed on the part of the Administration to persuade them to effect improvements.

9.As for new initiative sites, GLA/TFB informed that TFB had been continuing its efforts with the Planning Department in identifying suitable alternative sites for open storage and container related uses. TFB would shortly seek funds from the Finance Committee for the provision of necessary infrastructure before these new sites could be used for open storage. TFB would carry out all associated land resumption and clearance to facilitate implementation of infrastructure works. In addition, the re-zoning exercises were underway to enable these new initiative sites to be used for open storage purpose.

10.In response to a member's enquiry on the actual demand for container back-up and open storage areas, CTP/CEP indicated that the broad demand for such uses was being reviewed in the on-going Port Development Strategy Third Review. The study was expected to be completed in early 1998. PAS/PEL supplemented that about 374 hectares of land could be made available for open storage. Of these, about 185 hectares had since been developed for such use. Since some were private lots, it rested with the owners to decide whether to use the land for open storage purpose.

V.Capital Works Reserve Fund - Block Allocation 1998/99
(PLC Paper No. CB(1)359(02))

11.The Deputy Secretary for the Treasury (DS for Tsy) informed members that the Administration would seek a total allocation of $8,964 million for the existing and proposed new block allocations under various heads of expenditure under the Capital Works Reserve Fund (CWRF) for 1998/99. This represented a 19% increase over the allocation for 1997/98. The Administration also intended to change the ambit of seven subheads to allow the carrying out of slope related capital works items and to create a new block allocation subhead under Head 705 (Civil Engineering) and Head 708 (Capital Subventions and Major Systems and Equipment). All these proposals would be submitted to the Public Works Subcommittee (PWSC) at its meeting on 12 November 1997. As the block allocations involved more than 4,000 items, only the major ones were listed in the enclosures. Members who were interested in individual items might refer to two booklets containing the full list of block allocation items to be deposited with the Provisional Legislative Council Secretariat. DS for Tsy stressed that in the actual drawdown of funds for individual items, the departments concerned would be required to provide a more detailed cost breakdown together with justifications.

12.Given the ceiling of $15 million for each project under block allocations, the Chairman was concerned about the possibility of splitting the cost of a project exceeding $15 million to obviate the need to seek funding approval from the Finance Committee. DS for Tsy assured members that there were clear rules to prevent departments from breaking down the costs of a large item into a number of smaller projects.

13.Referring to item 6 of Subhead 7100CX in enclosure 1(g) and item 3 of Subhead B100HX in enclosure 1(k), a member sought clarification on the exact locations in respect of the feasibility study for housing sites at Shatin district and the investigation study and ground investigation for widening Tate's Cairn Highway. DS for Tsy agreed to provide the required information in writing.

14.On the need for changing the ambit of Subhead 9100 WX, DS for Tsy explained that similar to the proposed changes to six other subheads, this would allow incursion of expenditure for carrying out slope inspections and minor slope improvement works, in addition to the present scope covering feasibility studies and site investigations in respect of waterwork items.

15.Regarding Head 701 - Land Acquisition (re: enclosure 1(a)), members noted that the increase under Subhead 1004 CA (Compensation for surrenders and resumptions: miscellaneous) was mainly due to housing development projects at Tung Chung areas 30 and 31. This Subhead was different from Subhead 1100 CA which concerned compensation and ex gratia allowances in respect of projects in the Public Works Programme.

16.DS for Tsy clarified in response to members that taxi-shelters mentioned under Head 706 referred to taxi-stands (re: enclosure 1(f)).

17.On a member's concern about the estimated expenditure for Year 2000 compliance projects under Subhead A007 GX of Head 710 in enclosure 1(j), DS for Tsy said that some major Year 2000 compliance projects were highlighted in the enclosure, e.g. upgrading of systems in Inland Revenue Department, Information Technology Services Department and Correctional Services Department the total costs of which would be around $16.5 million. The Administration agreed to provide a full list of Year 2000 compliance items with estimated expenditure.

18.In connection with item 7 under Subhead A007 GX of Head 710 in enclosure 1(j), a member asked whether it was the Administration's intention to apply the " user pays' principle in recovering the cost of installing the electronic visa information system in the Trade Department. DS for Tsy said that the PWSC submission only dealt with the funding allocation for all the block allocations under the various heads of expenditure under the CWRF. The Chairman remarked that this was a policy issue and should be discussed in the relevant Panel should members so wish.

VI.Proposed consultancy study on wetland compensation
(PLC Paper No. CB(1)359(03))

19 .The Assistant Director of Agriculture and Fisheries (Conservation) (ADAF) briefly explained the background to the proposed study on wetland compensation. He stressed that the functions, values and attributes of wetlands could only be maintained if their ecological processes were allowed to continue. The study, which was estimated to cost $50 million, would make a comprehensive assessment of the damage or loss of wetland resources resulting from relevant public and known private projects. It would develop criteria and guidelines for on-site or off-site mitigation measures for future applications and review the acceptability of residual impact upon implementation of mitigation measures. Subject to allocation of resources, the study would start in early 1998 and was expected to be completed within 27 months.

20.The Chairman was concerned about the usefulness of the proposed study in remedying the loss of wetland incurred by on-going infrastructure projects given that the study would be completed in July 2000. ADAF explained that the proposed study would recommend practical means of mitigation, identify specific areas where wetlands could be restored, enhanced or created to compensate for the adverse impacts resulting from the projects.

21.A member noted with concern that some 300 hectares of valuable wetland would be affected or lost as a result of public projects. He opined that as a member of Ramsar Convention, Hong Kong should fulfil its role and responsibility to conserve the use of wetlands, which were of international importance as a waterfowl habitat for seasonal birds and other forms of wildlife from all over the world. While expressing support for the proposed study, the member highlighted the need for joint effort with the Shenzhen authorities in working out measures to protect vast areas of wetlands at both sides of the border from damage or loss as a result of rapid industrialisation in the Mainland. The study should also aim at enhancing restoration of wetlands at Inner Deep Bay area. Its scope should include Shenzhen and at the first stage of the study, the consultants employed should work out joint strategies for wetland compensation and habitat restoration on both sides of the border. Based on the outcome of the first stage, joint field trials should be conducted with the Shenzhen authorities at the second stage of the study.

22.ADAF thanked members for their comments and support for the study. He pointed out that there had been close cooperation between the Hong Kong and Guangdong Governments on environmental issues of mutual concern through the Hong Kong-Guangdong Environmental Protection Liaison Group. In response to members, he agreed to consider the feasibility of conducting a joint study on wetlands with the Shenzhen authorities and would advise members of its decision when seeking funding approval for the study from the Finance Committee in November 1997.

23.There being no other business, the meeting ended at 12:25 pm.

Provisional Legislative Council Secretariat
20 November 1997