Report of the Panel on Planning, Lands and Works
for submission to the Provisional Legislative Council
This report gives an account of the work of the Panel on Planning Lands and Works during the term of the Provisional Legislative Council. It will be tabled at the meeting of the Council on 8 April 1998 in accordance with Rule 77(14) of the Rules of Procedure of the Council.
2. The Panel was formed by resolution of this Council on 16 July 1997 for the purpose of monitoring and examining Government policies and issues of public concern relating to lands, buildings and planning matters, works and water supply, and Public Works Programme. The terms of reference of the Panel are at Appendix I.
3. The Panel comprises 14 members. Hon Edward HO Sin-ting and Hon KAN Fook-yee were elected Chairman and Deputy Chairman of the Panel respectively. The membership list of the Panel is at Appendix II.
4. To address the chronic problems caused by the lack of proper maintenance of ageing buildings, the Administration consulted the Panel on the proposed mandatory Building Safety Inspection Scheme under which owners of domestic and non-domestic buildings would be required to inspect their buildings in accordance with a prescribed inspection cycle. Whilst supporting the spirit of the Scheme to ensure building safety, members doubted the cost-effectiveness of subjecting buildings aged 20 or above to mandatory inspection. Of major issues identified by members, whether it was necessary to establish a fund to assist owners to meet the costs of appraisal, investigation and repairs, and to demolish unauthorized building structures in the course of inspection topped the list. Taking into account members?views on the subject and after public consultation, the Administration proposed to revise the Scheme such that the Buildings Department would carry out a general appraisal on the conditions of buildings aged 30 years or above to assess whether an order should be issued under the Buildings Ordinance to require the carrying out of detailed investigation and/or remedial works. Where such an order was issued, the Director of Buildings would at the same time invite owners of the buildings to participate voluntarily in the Scheme. The Administration would set up a $500 million Building Safety Improvement Loan Scheme operating on the principle of 忛o-gain-no-loss?to the Government to assist owners who needed financial assistance to participate in the Scheme.
5. Safety of slopes, in particular those adjacent to schools, was of prime concern to members. Noting that the current 5-year Accelerated Landslip Preventive Measures Programme concentrated mainly on man-made slopes in the existing Slope Catalogue which was compiled in 1977/78, the Panel urged the Administration to expeditiously update the Catalogue to include all sizeable man-made slopes in the territory and to identify the maintenance responsibility of registered slopes. Members noted that priority had been accorded to checking slopes adjacent to schools and the inspection exercise was expected to be completed by March 1999.
6. Of equal concern to members was the need to control and prevent flood. The Panel welcomed the Administration's three-tier plan to address the problem at source which comprised long-term structural measures, short-term improvement and management measures, and planning and legislative measures. Given the Elnino effect of weather conditions, members urged the Administration to upgrade or construct where practicable the drainage systems in both urban areas and the New Territories which could withstand rainstorms of a return period of 200 years.
7. The Administration updated members on the progress of the Strategic Sewage Disposal Scheme Stage I and noted members?grave concern on the failure of the contractor to complete the works for the six underground tunnels which had resulted in the re-entry of the site by the Government. To safeguard against similar recurrence, members supported the measures adopted by the Administration in the selection of contractors for the completion contracts. These included the carrying out of a pre-qualification exercise to short-list prospective contractors with suitable resources and expertise for submission of tenders and the incorporation of provisions in the tender document to require the provision of performance bonds and guarantees by the parent company of the tenderer. Noting the closure of the Sewage Services Trading Fund on 31 March 1998, members agreed with the Administration's proposal to fund the outstanding works from the Capital Works Reserve Fund thereafter.
8. The Panel was briefed on the present position of the small house policy. Noting a backlog of over 17,000 applications and the setting up of a committee to review the policy, members requested the Administration to introduce measures to expedite the processing of small house applications and estimate the number of applications in the coming years in deciding the way forward.
9. The Administration exchanged views with members on various financial proposals before submitting them to the Finance Committee for consideration. The major financial proposals supported by the Panel included making a comprehensive assessment of impacts of all known public and private work projects on wetland resources; conducting an updated engineering investigation and planning review study for the Green Island with a view to rephasing development; constructing the Foothills Bypass along Wong Chu Road to facilitate access to Tuen Mun Area 38 where the fourth industrial estate would be developed; and carrying out decontamination works in the north apron area of Kai Tak Airport to clean up the site for housing construction. Notwithstanding the support for introducing measures to speed up land resumption work, the Panel requested the Administration to rethink the proposal to contract out two pilot resumption projects in the New Territories which was considered not cost-effective.
10. From July 1997 to March 1998, the Panel held a total of 15 meetings of which four were joint meetings with other panels and conducted a joint visit with the Panel on Environmental Affairs.
Provisional Legislative Council Secretariat
9 March 1998