Progress Report on Cleaning Up Environmental Black Spots in the New Territories


To report on the progress of work of the Task Force (Black Spots)(TFB) in Lands Department and the Central Enforcement and Prosecution Section (CEPS) in Planning Department.


2. The TFB deals with environmental black spots on sites classified as "Existing Uses" (EU) under the Town Planning Ordinance1 . The TFB became operational in August 1994 and initially commenced action in two pilot action areas. The CEPS was established in mid-1994 to step up statutory planning enforcement action against "Unauthorised Developments" (UDs)2 in the rural parts of the New Territories.

3. Members were last briefed on the work of the TFB and the CEPS on 24 October 1997. This paper updates members on progress so far.

The Planning and Monitoring System

4.The overall planning, functions and progress of work of the TFB are monitored by the "Special Committee on the Cleaning Up of Black Spots in the New Territories" (SC) with its members appointed by the Chief Executive. The SC has endorsed a 10-year rolling programme of work (Appendix A) primarily aimed at black spots located along main roads in the North and Northwest New Territories. In accordance with the 10-year Rolling Work Programme, the TFB cleans up environmental black spots rolling from one Action Area to another and reports to the SC on its progress every three months. Since its inception, the TFB has generally completed its two pilot action areas, namely the Pat Heung Pilot Action Area (PHPAA) and the Ha Tsuen Container Action Area (HTCAA).

The "Polluter Pays" Approach

5.In cleaning up black spots at EU undertakings in private land within the action areas, the TFB is adopting a "Polluter Pays" approach. Through persistent persuasion or warning, if necessary, the landowners or operators of the undertakings concerned are urged to carry out "Insitu Environmental Improvement Works" (IEIW) to their sites in compliance with the requirements proposed by the TFB. While landowners and/or operators concerned undertake such IEIW at their own expense, the TFB will provide the necessary advice and guidance to them in the course of implementation. On the other hand, the TFB also takes active steps to clear illegally occupied government land and implement landscaping works of the cleared land by its term contractors.

The Current Achievement

6. Up to 31.10.1998 the overall achievement of the TFB in the past four years is summed up as follows:-

Black Spots on Private land and Government land Cleaned Up/Improved

Total No. of SitesTotal Area
(a) Private land237(Completed IEIW)
88(Ceased business, or demolished
structures on site, or changed trade)
64.3 ha
13.6 ha
(b)Government land
24.9 ha
102.8 ha

(Of the 519 Government land sites cleared, 389 have been landscaped by the TFB.)

The annual progress of the TFB is detailed at Table 1. Appendix B shows the various Action Areas in which the above results are achieved. The improved environment will be illustrated by slides to be presented during the meeting.

The Regularization Exercise

7. For those black spots sites where the IEIW has been satisfactorily completed, the TFB offers Short Term Waivers (STW) to landowners to regularize their structures built on private land and, if necessary, Short Term Tenancies (STT) to regularize unauthorised occupation of adjoining Government land. So far, a total of 254 STW and 54 STT have been offered.

Effect of The Current Economic Downturn

8. While the TFB has been able to urge the implementation of IEIW by the landowners/operators at their own expense, the current adverse economic climate has brought about financial hardship to many of these landowners/operators. Accordingly, the progress in implementing IEIW in the current year has slowed down considerably and additional time will likely be required to clean up the black spots in the current action areas.

9. Besides, many landowners/operators to whom STW/STT have been offered have raised requests through their trade associations for reduction of STW fees/STT rental. Some Hon. LegCo Members have also expressed concern over this matter. The TFB will further take up the discussion of this issue with the trade associations.

New Action Areas

10. The TFB has started in August 1998 to carry out IEIW proposals for the open storage sites and workshops in the new Action Area in Lau Fau Shan/Ha Tsuen. The first group of the EU undertakings in this action area will be requested to implement such IEIW shortly. In June 1998, the cleaning up exercise has also been rolled over to San Tin district which is another new TFB Action Area in Yuen Long. Black spots on Government land here are being cleared in phases. Arrangement, in consultation with CEPS in Planning Department, is in progress with a view to implementing IEIW at EU of container related sites in San Tin, Ngau Tam Mei, Mai Po & Tai Sang Wai.

New Initiatives

11. While it will take some time to develop the large areas zoned under the Town Planning Ordinance for container back-up uses and open storage purposes, the TFB has managed to identify, in consultation with Planning Department, suitable sites which are more readily available to cater for the need of these industries. These sites include:-

STT Sites in San Sin

  1. Two pieces of Government land located in San Tin area of Yuen Long District comprising a total of about 1.8 ha have been identified suitable for container vehicle parking. Planning approvals have been secured. The TFB is arranging to let out these sites by way of STT through tender soon.
Sites for Sale
  1. A piece of Government land of about 1.5 ha in Fu Tei Au near Man Kam To Road has been approved by the Town Planning Board for the construction of a 4-storey building for container vehicle parking and ancillary services as a result of an planning application made by the TFB. In October 1998, this site was cleared by the TFB in joint venture with the Housing Department and the Police Force. The site is scheduled to be included in the next Land Sales Programme for the approved use.

  2. Another piece of Government land of about 4.3 ha at Mai Po Lung of San Tin area in Yuen Long has been approved by the Town Planning Board for the construction of a 5-storey building for container vehicle parking as a result of an application made by the TFB. Arrangement for site clearance operation is being planned by the TFB in consultation with departments concerned and this site is scheduled for sale in early 2000.
Funding Support For Provision Of Infrastructure To New Initiated Sites

12. In the last report, Members of this Panel were briefed that an area of about 16 ha at Ping Che and an area of about 10.5 ha at Wa Shan, both zoned "Agriculture" under the statutory OZP, were identified as suitable for "Open Storage" and "Container Trailer/Tractor Park" uses by the Planning Department. Re-zoning of these two sites was subsequently approved by the Town Planning Board early this year and the amended OZPs were gazetted in mid-1998.

13. In order to encourage early utilization of these two sites for the zoned uses, infrastructure improvement (including widening of existing sub-standard access roads and construction of new roads and drains) is proposed to be carried out for these two sites. The design and construction works will be undertaken by consultants under the supervision of the Highways Department whereas the TFB will be responsible for land resumption and compensation.

14. The total estimated costs in providing the necessary infrastructures to these two sites including design, engineering works, land resumption and compensation, are around $122million. As the infrastructure improvement work is related to the cleaning up environmental black spots, funds will be charged to the TFB Expenditure Vote (i.e. Head 91 Sub-head 842 for cleaning up of environmental blacks spots in the New Territories) subject to the Finance Committee's approval. Charging of these projects under the TFB Expenditure Vote will help save time from entering these projects to the Public Works Programme Items for funding allocation. Papers will be submitted to the Finance Committee for consideration on 18.12.98.

New TFB Role - Flytipping Control

15.The TFB has also assumed the task of acting as an inter-departmental co-ordinating office with the aim of improving Government efforts to control and tackle illegal waste dumping in the entire territory of Hong Kong. An "Inter-Departmental Working Group on Flytipping Control" has recently been established to harness concerned departments' support in this regard.

Consultation And Publicity

16. The TFB has continued to maintain close contacts with District Boards and Rural Committees concerned in the Tuen Mun District, Yuen Long District and North District for the purpose of briefing the community on the functions of the TFB, soliciting their support towards the cleaning up exercises, and receiving feedback. Every now and then the TFB also promptly responds to enquiries raised by local media and the green conservation groups either through telephone or interviews on the progress of work of the TFB.

17. The TFB has continued to maintain close contacts with associations and members of the container and open storage industries for the purpose of promoting environmental improvement concept and helping members of the industries concerned to solve their problems in implementing environmental improvement works.

18. The TFB is in the course of updating its publicity pamphlet and, with the assistance of the Information Services Department, producing a new publicity film (of about 30 seconds). Both items are expected to be available in early 1999.

The Future of the TFB

19. In 1994 the then Finance Committee approved funding support for the TFB to function for an initial period of five years, i.e. up to 31.3.1999. However, the TFB Work Programme for cleaning up black spots along main roads in the New Territories as endorsed by the Special Committee is scheduled to be completed in the year 2006. It is estimated that another three years will be required to clean up black spots in the hinterland areas. The TFB is in the middle of its Work Programme whereas its additional duties in flytipping control is a newly-started undertaking. To upkeep the improved environmental standard on Government land and to prevent recurrence of black spots on private land is also a permanent consequential event that needs to be addressed after the TFB has completed its Work Programme.

20. The SC has recognised the efforts and mid-term achievement of the TFB and has recommended to the Administration that the TFB should continue to function after 31.3.1999 so that it will complete its Work Programme in cleaning up black spots, in co-ordinating with Government efforts to tackle illegal waste dumping and in preventing recurrence of black spots. In view of the need to continue cleaning up environmental black spots, Administration has decided to extend the service of the TFB for five years (i.e. 1/4/1999 - 31/3/2004). Any further extension of its service will then be subject to review. The TFB will keep reporting to this Panel annually (or more frequently as may be required) on the progress of its work.

21. Since the last reporting, 199 sites and 16 ha. have been cleared. In the future five and a half years time, it is expected that another 950 black spots of 125 ha. in the New Territories will be cleaned up by the TFB, in addition to its efforts towards flytipping control and in assisting the implementation of suitable land ready for accommodation of open storage undertakings and off port backup facilities. In addition, to cater to the market need, the TFB will continue to identify suitable sites which could be put to the market satisfying the need of the industries operators both on short- and long-term basis.

Progress of Planning Enforcement and Prosecution Actions

22. The CEPS is responsible for a total of 17,640 ha of land subject to statutory planning enforcement control under the Town Planning Ordinance (TPO) (Plan 1). As a result of persistent enforcement and prosecution actions, proliferation of UDs has been put under control. The progress of CEPS work is summarized at Table 2. Up to 31.10.1998, a total of 1,030 UD cases occupying about 267 ha of land had been discontinued and another 372 UD cases occupying about 153 ha of land had been regularized through the planning application system. The effect of planning enforcement is particularly obvious in North-east New Territories, Pat Heung Pilot Action Area (PHPAA), North District (East) Action Area (NDEAA), So Kwun Wat and Tai Lam Chung Container Action Area and Sai Kung district.

23. In the past year (11/97-10/98), 1,512 statutory Enforcement Notices (ENs) were issued with respect to 257 cases and 1,444 Compliance Notices (CNs) were issued in 251 cases for UDs being discontinued or regularized. As regards prosecution actions, a total of 54 cases (involving 135 defendants) had been prosecuted in the past year. The overall conviction rate for UD cases was 97% and the average fine was $26,224.

24. In order to restore the degraded rural land to a more acceptable condition, a proactive approach has been adopted by the CEPS to restore the environmentally sensitively areas. In the past year, 64 statutory Reinstatement Notices (RNs) were issued in 7 cases, resulting in a total of 4.1 ha of land being restored. The reinstatement work includes landscaping, removal of eyesore and prevention of local flooding.

25. Although the proliferation of UDs is under control, continuous efforts are required before the problem of UDs in the rural New Territories could be resolved. As at 31.10.1998, there were still 793 active UD cases occupying about 240 ha of land. About 88% of these cases were located in the North-west New Territories (NWNT), and amongst them, open storage, workshop and container vehicle park were the major types of uses. The CEPS will continue to tackle the UDs in order of priority.

Concerted Efforts with TFB in Action Areas

26.Special teams have been set up within CEPS to work in collaboration with the TFB on the common objective of cleaning up the environmental black spots in TFB's six designated priority Action Areas (Plan 1). In the established PHPAA and NDEAA, up to 31.10.1998, 972 ENs and 14 RNs were issued with respect to 184 and 6 cases respectively. 141 defendants involving 68 cases had been prosecuted and convicted. As a result of persistent planning enforcement, 270 UD cases (about 45 ha) had been discontinued and 101 UD cases (about 19 ha) had been regularized through the planning application system. At present, there are only 58 cases (about 9.5 ha) which require further enforcement actions. Upon the completion of TFB's regularization exercise in the PHPAA and NDEAA, the CEPS will continue to monitor the concerned areas to prevent occurrence of new UDs.

27. Unauthorized developments within Ha Tsuen Container Action Area mainly involve container depots for which there is a keen demand. The CEPS has therefore followed a pragmatic strategy in enforcing these unauthorized depots. Enforcement efforts have been focused on containing the proliferation of unauthorized depots in Ha Tsuen and on enforcing those with major environmental, traffic and drainage problems. So far, 7 cases (9.4 ha) have been served with Enforcement Notices and operators of 13 cases have been prosecuted and convicted. 12 unauthorized container depot (17.9 ha) have been discontinued and 8 (11.3 ha) regularized after planning enforcement.

28. To tie in with TFB's Ten-year Rolling Work Programme, the CEPS has redeployed its staff resources to complement the efforts of TFB in the new Ha Tsuen and Lau Fau Shan Action Area. A special team has already been set up within CEPS in August 1998 to assess the planning status of the undertakings within the Ha Tsuen and Lau Fau Shan Action Area to facilitate TFB's regularization exercise. The CEPS will initiate corresponding enforcement and prosecution actions against the UD cases in this new Action Area.

Identification and Provision of New Open Storage Sites

29. There has been 374 ha of land reserved on the rural N.T. Outline Zoning Plans (OZPs) for open storage and container back-up uses. Another 192 ha of land have also been zoned *Industrial* and *Industrial (Group D)* which could be used for workshops and related uses. As a continuous effort, Planning Department has, in conjunction with the TFB and other departments, identified additional 51 ha of land for open storage uses: 27 ha of the land are at Ping Che and Sheung Shui Wa Shan in North-east N.T. and the rezoning of the land for open storage and container back-up uses were gazetted in mid-1998; the other 24 ha are in Pat Heung for open storage uses and the rezoning was gazetted in November 1998. This has substantially increased the reserved land for open storage and container back-up uses on the rural OZPs to 425 ha.

30. To expedite early availability of land to meet the demand, the CEPS also actively liaises with the TFB to identify and release more Government sites in the N.T. to increase the land supply for container back-up and open storage uses.

31. Temporary provision of container back-up and open storage land is essential to increase the short-term supply before the permanent sites are developed. In the past year, the Town Planning Board has approved 144 applications (about 91 ha of land) for container back-up, open storage, workshop and related uses in the rural N.T. on a temporary basis. These approvals have significantly increased the temporary supply of land.

Formal Liaison Channel with Open Storage Operators

32. There has been some resistance to planning enforcement actions from some UD operators in the past few years. To enhance mutual understanding between the Government and the operators of open storage, container back-up uses and vehicle workshops, a formal regular liaison meeting between the Government and the concerned trade associations, chaired by the Planning Department, had been established in April 1998. Three meetings had been held and were attended by representatives from various Government departments and representatives of the trade associations. The liaison meetings have provided a useful forum for the exchange of views on enforcement, planning applications and planning of open storage land and helps to enhance the smooth operation of enforcement action undertaken by the CEPS.

Promotion of Public Awareness

33. As a long term effort to prevent occurrence of UDs, it is necessary to promote public awareness of planning enforcement, particularly among the landowners and operators of open storage and container back-up trades. Pamphlets and posters have been widely distributed among rural organizations and during site inspections to educate the operators and landowners. This is particularly essential because in many enforcement cases, the offenders are ignorant of the law and are misled by some middlemen or agents. Press release on convicted UD cases has also been issued from time to time to promote public awareness of the work of CEPS.

Looking Ahead

34. Planning Department will continue to carry out its statutory planning enforcement functions vigilantly and sensitively with a view to controlling proliferation of unauthorized developments and to improve the rural environment. Our goal is to channel the UDs to properly planned locations through the planning permission system, as appropriate, rather than to eliminate them indiscriminately. In parallel, the Department also strives to identify more sites for open storage uses to meet the economic needs. To improve the effectiveness and efficiency of planning enforcement, the Department is also liaising closely with the Department of Justice for necessary amendments to the Town Planning Ordinance with a view to introducing the amendments to the Legislative Council for consideration in early 1999.

35. With the Administration's decision to extend its service for another five years to 2004, CEPS will continue to perform the functions on statutory planning enforcement as enumerated above, and keep reporting its work progress to this Panel annually (or more frequently as required).

December 1998

Table 2 : Progress of Enforcement and Prosecution Actions Taken by CEPS

1st year of CEPS
work (11.7.1994
- 10.7.1995)
2nd year of CEPS
work (11.7.1995
3rd year of CEPS
work (12.7.1996
- 10.7.1997)
4th year of CEPS
work (11.7.1997
- 10.7.1998)
Warning Letters (WL) served33 (54)70 (142)119 (277)128 (336)
Enforcement Notice (EN) served52 (253)157 (763)216 (1415)246 (1380)
Reinstatement Notice (RN) served7 (24)15 (59)5 (38)8 (85)
Compliance Notice (CN) served35 (108)74 (309)203 (1255)185 (1080)
Prosecution under s.20, s.21 and s.2347383759
Review by Magistrate Heard2-17
Appeal to High Court Heard4225
Judicial Reviews Heard1---

NB : The figures inside brackets indicate the total number of notices served.

Appendix B

Progress Report on Cleaning Up Environmental Black Spots
In The Task Force (Black Spots) (TFB) Action Areas
(As At 31.10.1998)

(A) The Pat Heung Pilot Action Area (PHPAA), Yuen Long
    1. This is the first action area of the TFB. Over 95% of the Existing Use (EU) black spots in the form of open storage of construction machinaries/construction materials, metal scrap yards, storage of vehicle parts, workshops, etc. to which the TFB has issued warnings and proposal of Insitu Environmental Improvement Works (IEIW) have completed the IEIW, ceased operation or demolished the illegal structures. Basically, the cleaning up exercise in PHPAA is considered to have been satisfactorily completed, except that a few isolated cases involving special complications (such as confused lot boundaries, deceased landowners, etc.) are still being processed.

    2. The major manpower originally engaged in this action area has been redeployed to start action in new action areas, leaving a small unit to process the bulk of documentation for Short Term Waivers (STW) and Short Term Tenancies (STT) (please refer to para. 9 of the Report) and to handle the above-mentioned outstanding cases.

    3. The following is a summary of the overall results in PHPAA:-

    No. of CasesArea
    (a)Black Spots of EU sites involving private land where IEIW have been completed.18122.94 ha

    (b)Black Spots of EU sites where the landowners/operators have chosen to demolish the structures, to cease business (or to change trade).344.02 ha

    (c)Black Spots on Government land cleared by the TFB (costing about $26M, including landscaping and minor engineering improvement projects).3157 ha

    33.96 ha
    (d)Agreement reached with landowners/operators concerned for the issue of STWs/STTs. (More STWs/STTs are being offered)STW
    (e)Total estimated annual STW fee/STT rental payable.About $6.25 million.
(B)The Ha Tsuen Container Action Area (HTCAA), Yuen Long
    1. This is the first container action area (for storage of empty containers) of the TFB. Through close liaison with the association of the industry concerned and with individual operators, the TFB has been successful in urging all the total 13 EU container storage depots, comprising a total area of 33.42 ha, to complete IEIW in accordance with the Code of Practice (COP) which has been formulated in joint venture of the Container Depots and Repairers Association and the TFB in consultation with other Government departments concerned. This indeed has been a quite time consuming exercise and, in the views of the operators concerned, also a rather expensive event (as the operators have to implement such IEIW at their own expense). However, the improved environment such as minimized dust pollution and noise nuisance, better drainage system, improved traffic flow, etc. has long been expected by the community and so the efforts, time and money spent are well justified.

    2. The landowners/operators concerned are being notified to execute a total of 45 STW and 11 STT. The total annual STW fee/STT rental payable is about $3M.

    3. On the other hand the TFB cleared 98 black spots on Government land, totalling about 12.51 ha. The total cost, including landscaping and minor engineering improvement projects, is about $5.7M.

(C) The North District (East) Action Area (NDEAA)
    1. This is the second action area of the TFB in tackling EU black spots of open storage of construction machinaries/construction materials, metal scrap yards, workshops, etc. In addition to urging the EU operators to implement IEIW, the TFB has also made suggestions to over 20 sites which are located in permissible planning zone where the existing undertaking can be permanently accommodated, for insitu land exchange so as to allow a more secure term for the landowners to develop these sites and to bring about more permanent environmental improvement.

    2. However, owing to the current adverse economic climate landowners concerned have not been responding to such land exchange proposals positively, because such land exchange will require payment of additional land premium to the Government. For the same reason, other landowners/operators in this action area are reacting slowly when being urged to implement IEIW. This has considerably slowed down the cleaning up progress. Nevertheless, the TFB has achieved the following results:-

    No. of CasesArea
    (a)Black Spots of EU sites involving private land where IEIW have been completed.437.95 ha
    (b)Black Spots of EU sites where the landowners/operators have chosen to demolish the structures, to cease business (or to change trade).549.53 ha
    (c)Black Spots on Government land cleared by the TFB (costing about $5.8M, including landscaping and minor engineering improvement projects).913.4 ha

    20.9 ha
    (d)The TFB has started to invite those who have completed IEIW to accept STWs/STTs.

    3. The TFB, in acknowledging the financial difficulties that have been brought to the landowners/operators concerned as a result of the current adverse economic climate, is adopting a sympathetic, patient but firm attitude in urging these people concerned to implement IEIW. The progress is a few months behind the original schedule but the TFB, on the understanding that extra time is obviously needed, will continue with its efforts to urge some 60 undertakings, including those which have refused to accept land exchange proposals, to complete IEIW.

(D) The San Tin Action Area, Yuen Long
    1. This is another new action area of the TFB. The local villagers are comparatively quite sensitive to the cleaning up exercise because the Government on the other hand is planning to make use of some sites on Government land for container related uses in this area. The TFB has therefore adopted a gradual approach by starting with cleaning up action on Government land first.

    2. On the other hand the TFB keeps on contacting the Rural Committee concerned with a view to promoting the concept of environmental improvement.

    3. So far, 15 black spots on Government land comprising about 1.9 ha have cleared. The total cost incurred, including landscaping items, is about $0.67M.

    4. Consultation with the CEPS is in progress with a view to formulating a most effective approach in cleaning up black spots of container related EUs on private land here.


1EU means a use of building or land that was in existence immediately before the publication in the Gazette of notice of the draft Development Permission Area plan under the provision of the Town Planning Ordinance.

2Unless the use of building or land is(i)EU, or(ii)permitted under statutory plan, or(iii)approved by the Town Planning Board under section 16 of the Town Planning Ordinance, it is defined as UD.