Legislative Council

LC Paper No. CB(1)1009/98-99
(These minutes have been
seen by the Administration)


LegCo Panel on Planning, Lands and Works

Minutes of meeting held on Thursday, 11 February 1999, at 10:45 am in Conference Room A of the Legislative Council Building

Members present :

Hon Edward HO Sing-tin, JP (Chairman)
Dr Hon TANG Siu-tong, JP (Deputy Chairman)
Hon HO Sai-chu, JP
Dr Hon Raymond HO Chung-tai, JP
Hon LEE Wing-tat
Hon Ronald ARCULLI, JP
Hon James TO Kun-sun
Hon WONG Yung-kan
Hon LAU Kong-wah
Hon LAU Wong-fat, GBS, JP
Hon Andrew CHENG Kar-foo
Hon TAM Yiu-chung, JP

Public officers attending :

For item IV

Mr Gordon SIU
Secretary for Planning, Environment and Lands

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

Mr Wilson H K WONG
Principal Land Control Officer
Lands Department

Assistant Director of Planning
(New Territories)

Mr Anthony T K KWAN
District Planning Officer
(Sha Tin, Tai Po and North District)
Planning Department

Clerk in attendance :

Miss Odelia LEUNG
Chief Assistant Secretary (1)1

Staff in attendance :

Ms Connie SZETO
Senior Assistant Secretary (1)1

I Confirmation of minutes of meeting
(LC Paper No. CB(1)819/98-99)

The minutes of meeting held on 29 October 1998 were confirmed.

II Date of next meeting and items for discussion

2. Members agreed to re-schedule the regular meeting in March 1999 as follows -

  1. Tuesday, 9 March 1999, at 2:30 pm to further discuss the proposed South East Kowloon Development; and

  2. Tuesday, 23 March 1999, at 10:45 am to discuss the following items -

    1. Town Planning Bill;

    2. North West New Territories Development Main Drainage Channels for Yuen Long and Kam Tin Remainder;

    3. Tseung Kwan O Development at Area 137; and

    4. Yuen Long - Tuen Mun Corridor/rural hinterland engineering works for Village Priority Areas (Ha Mei San Tsuen).

    (Post-meeting note : at the request of the Administration and with the consent of the Chairman, item (d) was replaced by "Tsuen Wan Bay Further Reclamation".)

3. Members fixed the meeting schedule for the period from April to June 1999 as follows -

Date Time
15 April 1999 10:45 am
13 May 1999 10:45 am
10 June 1999 10:45 am

The Panel would decide at the regular meeting in June 1999 whether meetings would be held in July 1999 and during the summer recess.

III Information papers issued since last meeting

(Paper No. CB(1)795/98-99 - Reorganisation of Civil Engineering Office of the Civil Engineering Department and the creation of the Chief Engineer (D1) post for Housing Project;

Paper No. CB(1)885/98-99 - Views of the Hong Kong Institute of Surveyors on the Land Title Bill)

4. Members noted the two information papers above.

IV Infrastructure improvement works at Wa Shan and Ping Che in North District
(Paper No. CB(1)878/98-99(01))

5. At the invitation of the Chairman, the Principal Assistant Secretary for Planning, Environment and Lands (Planning) (PAS/PEL(P)) briefed members on the paper which provided further information to address their concerns about the proposed infrastructure improvement works at Wa Shan and Ping Che raised during the discussion on the annual progress of cleaning up of environmental black spots in the New Territories (NT) at the Panel meeting on 10 December 1998. PAS/PEL(P) stressed that it was in the public interest to implement the infrastructure improvement project with a view to bringing about environmental improvement to the local community and speeding up utilization of land in the two areas for "Open Storage" and "Container Trailer/Tractor Park" uses. The provision of the necessary infrastructure was intended to serve as incentives for operators of unauthorized developments (UDs) to move to properly planned locations to continue with their operations. This would reduce the proliferation of environmental black spots elsewhere. The project was a pilot scheme and was among a package of new initiatives of the Task Force (Black Spots) (TFB) in cleaning up environmental black spots in NT. The total estimated costs of the project including land resumption and compensation would be around $122 million. Subject to members' support, the Administration would make a submission to the Finance Committee for approval of funds under the Task Force Vote to implement the project. The Administration then used the visualizer to illustrate the existing problems of roads and drains in the two sites.

6. On the extent of land to be resumed, PAS/PEL(P) advised that five private lots in Wa Shan and 18 private lots in Ping Che would need to be resumed for implementation of the project. The land resumption would affect 10 households in Wa Shan and nine households in Ping Che with a total of about 70 residents. The affected residents would be informed of the land clearance after the consultant had finalized the detailed alignment and design for the project. The Principal Land Control Officer, Lands Department (PLCO) said that the land to be resumed was primarily for widening existing roads and would be limited to the extent that was strictly necessary.

7. Mr LAU Kong-wah was supportive of the proposed project but expressed concern about rehousing arrangement for the affected residents. PLCO advised that the resumption procedures would be in accordance with the provisions of the Roads (Works, Use and Compensation) Ordinance (Cap. 370). The Housing Department would assess the eligibility of affected families for rehousing. As there were limited farming activities at the two sites, the Agriculture and Fisheries Department would assess the eligibility of affected persons for compensation for crops. Mr Andrew CHENG Kar-foo said that on previous occasions the Administration had provided compassionate rehousing to residents affected by flood control projects who were considered ineligible for rehousing under the existing policy. He had repeatedly requested the Administration to review the existing rehousing criteria and specify categorically the provision of rehousing for persons affected by flood control projects and other public works projects instead of handling the question of eligibility for rehousing on a case-by-case basis. PAS/PEL(P) agreed to discuss with the Housing Department and revert to the Panel in writing. PELB

8. Mr TAM Yiu-chung supported the proposed project in principle on the grounds that this would encourage early utilization of the two sites for container related uses. He opined that the planning of land for container related uses should tie in with the growth of the container business which slackened lately. In response, PAS/PEL(P) said that the Economic Services Bureau (ESB) studied the growth trend of the container trade every two years. Notwithstanding an indication of slowing down of the container trade in the latest study, there remained a demand for land for open storage and port back-up uses. The proposed project would address the existing problem of proliferation of environmental black spots and cater for the future need of the trade for land for port back-up uses. PAS/PEL(P) undertook to provide a copy of the study report on port cargo forecasts prepared by ESB.(Post-meeting note : The executive summary of the forecasts 1997/98 was circulated to members vide LC Paper No. CB(1)979/98-99 dated 8 March 1999)

9. In reply to Mr HO Sai-chu's enquiry about possible income to be generated in implementing the proposed project, PLCO said that fees/rentals would be charged for Short Term Waivers (STW)/Short Term Tenancies (STT) granted to landowners as appropriate who applied to convert their land to the rezoned uses. These fees/rentals were subject to revision in line with changing market situations. Besides fees/rentals, landowners were also required to pay rates commensurate with the actual use of the land. Upon members' request, the Administration would provide further information on possible income to the Government arising from the project. LD

10. Dr Raymond HO Chung-tai, Dr TANG Siu-tong, Messrs LEE Wing-tat, LAU Wong-fat and Andrew CHENG Kar-foo expressed reservation over the proposed project. Messrs LEE Wing-tat and Andrew CHENG Kar-foo pointed out that about 122 million for the provision of infrastructure and an annual recurrent expenditure of about $300,000 would have to be spent on the two sites which had a total area of 26.5 ha. If comparable infrastructure improvement works were to be provided to other private lots which were identified as suitable for container related uses, the total amount of public resources to be incurred would be tremendous. They therefore had serious doubt on the cost-effectiveness of the proposed project as far as public interest was concerned. Dr TANG Siu-tong, Messrs LAU Wong-fat and LEE Wing-tat said that the Administration's paper had not adequately addressed their concern as to why Wa Shan and Ping Che had been selected as the sites for the pilot scheme. They pointed out that San Tin in Yuen Long where numerous UDs existed was also suitable for container related uses.

11. In response, PAS/PEL(P) said that although adequate land had been zoned for container related activities, there were still 765 UDs occupying some 238 ha of land. In North East NT alone, some 172 ha of land had been zoned for container related uses but about 18 ha of UDs existed. The proliferation of UDs in NT was partly due to a mismatch between the supply of and the demand for land suitable for open storage and port back-up uses. The lack of vehicular access, drainage and associated infrastructure had rendered sizable percentage of the zoned land not being utilized for the purpose. The proposed project would encourage operators of UDs to move their operations to properly zoned land. Coupled with enforcement actions against UDs, the Administration hoped to eliminate environmental black spots on different fronts. PAS/PEL(P) stated that there was clearly public interest in undertaking the proposed project as it would bring about environmental improvement to some 1,500 residents of the neighbouring four villages. As about 30% of the land at the two sites had been put to open storage uses, local residents were subject to environmental nuisance such as traffic, road safety, drainage and flooding problems. The proposed project would upgrade existing sub-standard access roads to standard vehicular roads with footpaths and provide for new drains. It was unreasonable to expect individual landowners of these two areas to undertake such major road and drainage improvement works to serve the local community. The Secretary for Planning, Environment and Lands said that there was no difference in essence between the proposed works and other village improvement projects which aimed at improving the rural environment.

12. As regards the reasons for selecting Wa Shan and Ping Che for implementing the pilot project, PAS/PEL(P) explained that three other sites in Man Kam To, Pat Heung, and Kam Tin, each of which was less than three ha in area, had been considered for container related uses. The Administration had reviewed all five sites against a number of criteria including location requirements for open storage uses such as proximity to main roads and concentration of similar uses, environmental impact on the surrounding land uses, development costs, flexibility in implementation of infrastructure works to ensure early site availability, and reasonable size of the sites to ensure cost effectiveness. After weighing all these factors, the Administration selected the Wa Shan and Ping Che sites as the most suitable ones for implementing infrastructure improvement works. The District Planning Officer (Shan Tin, Tai Po and North District), Planning Department (DPO/STN) supplemented that the Provisional North District Board (PNDB) was consulted in 1996, 1997 and 1998 on the re-zoning of Wa Shan and Ping Che for open storage and port back-up uses. Whilst not opposing the re-zoning of these two sites, PNDB expressed deep concern about the existing sub-standard access roads and drains which would give rise to road safety and flooding problems and strongly urged the Administration to undertake early improvement works. The Ta Kwu Ling Rural Committee raised objection to the re-zoning of the Ping Che site in 1998 but later withdrew it after discussion with the Administration and on the understanding that funding would be sought for the infrastructural improvement works. Upon members' request, PAS/PEL(P) agreed to provide details on the three other sites for their information. PELB

13. As far as San Tin was concerned, PAS/PEL(P) said that measures to tackle environmental black spots were site specific. The Administration was arranging to let out two pieces of Government land in San Tin with a total area of about 1.8 ha for container vehicle parking uses by way of STT. A piece of Government land of about 1.5 ha in Fu Tei Au near Man Kam To Road would be sold for the construction of container vehicle parking facilities. PLCO added that re-zoning of land use was based on suitability and practicability of the land concerned for the desired re-zoned uses. While the Wa Shan and Ping Che sites would be favoured by container related business operators utilizing the Man Kam To border crossing, the to-be-let out sites in San Tin which were located in North West NT would be considered convenient by those using the Lok Ma Chau border crossing.

14. Mr LEE Wing-tat was concerned about the backfire effects of the proposed project. He said that upon completion of the improvement works, more containers were expected to go to the two sites. This might create nuisance or even hazards to residents. His view was echoed by Dr TANG Siu-tong who was concerned about flooding and possible impact of the proposed project on walled villages and small house development in the peripheral areas. PAS/PEL(P) advised that although the sites at Wa Shan and Ping Che had been re-zoned for open storage and port back-up uses, interested landowners had to apply for change of land use under section 16 of the Town Planning Ordinance. Where such an application was approved, the Town Planning Board would normally impose conditions to require the applicant to undertake improvement works. Non-compliance with the conditions imposed would result in enforcement actions. DPO/STN supplemented that views of the local community had been taken into consideration in the rezoning exercise and the preliminary design for the project to minimize any adverse impact on residents in the vicinity. The proposed road in Wa Shan would not affect Wa Shan Village which was situated more than 100 metres away in the south-east. The proposed road improvement in Ping Che would include the provision of u-turn facility at the western end of Ng Chau Road and heavy vehicles would not be allowed to pass through Ping Che Village so as to minimize possible nuisance to the village.

15. Some members opined that the provision of infrastructure could not guarantee that landowners concerned would put their land to open storage and port back-up uses. PAS/PEL(P) said that land uses depended on market demand. The demand for land for container related uses in Wa Shan and Ping Che was evident by the fact that about 30% of the land had already been used for such uses. Since over 90% of the two sites were un-used farmland, it was expected that landowners would be ready to convert their land to profitable uses upon the completion of the proposed road and drainage improvement works.

16. On the criteria for assessing the effectiveness of the proposed project and for extending the pilot scheme to other sites, PAS/PEL(P) said that the Administration would regularly review whether the proposed works succeeded in bringing valuable environmental improvements without driving out existing operations. One of the criteria for assessing the effectiveness of the pilot scheme was whether UDs in North East NT were under control or reduced. Only after the pilot project had been implemented would the Administration be in a position to decide whether this should be extended to other sites. The Administration would report to the Panel on the progress and the outcome of the proposed project.

17. Mr LEE Wing-tat pointed out that since the proposed project was a new initiative and had policy implications, the Administration must work out a mechanism which could be applied to other sites as well, for example, by introducing a scheme whereby landowners interested in converting the zoned land for container related uses might apply for the provision of infrastructural improvement works but would be required to share the costs of such works. This would spare public criticism of favouring some particular sites. Dr Raymond HO agreed that in the absence of a comprehensive strategy for tackling environmental black spots, it would be difficult for members to assess the proposed project in isolation. He was of the view that the proposed works had to tie in with the development of NT. He suggested that the Administration should consider selecting sites of different sizes for implementation of the pilot project.

18. In response, PAS/PEL(P) said that the Administration had an overall policy on cleaning up environmental black spots. The TFB, since its establishment in 1994, was committed to eliminating environmental black spots, controlling the proliferation of UDs, as well as improving the rural environment. The strategy adopted by the Administration comprised different measures including conducting in-situ environmental improvement works, persuading or issuing warning to operators to give up UDs, and taking enforcement actions. The identification of readily available suitable sites and the provision of necessary infrastructure to enable these sites to be used for container related purposes were new initiatives. DPO/STN added that through persistent enforcement and prosecution actions, up to the end of 1998, UDs occupying some 280 ha of land had been discontinued and those operating on about 160 ha of land had been regularized through the planning application system.

19. PAS/PEL(P) further said that the strategy to clean up environmental black spots tied in with the development of NT. The Administration had been undertaking regular reviews of the Territorial Development Strategy which provided strategic framework to guide the future development of Hong Kong. The planning and development studies for North West and North East NT would examine inter alia the demand for land for container related uses. The studies had commenced and were scheduled for completion in 2000. The outcome of the studies would be released for public consultation.

20. Some members remained unconvinced of the Administration's explanations and requested more information on existing uses of the two sites and the yardstick for assessing the effectiveness of the proposed project. In this connection, members requested and the Administration agreed to provide information with an illustrated map on drainage works which were in progress or would soon commence in Northern NT so as to better assess their effects on residents.

V Any other business

21. There being no other business, the meeting ended at 12:15 pm.

Legislative Council Secretariat
9 March 1999