LegCo Paper No. CB(1)168/96-97
(These minutes have been
seen by the Administration)
Ref : CB1/PL/PLW/1

LegCo Panel on Planning, Lands and Works

Minutes of special meeting held on Tuesday, 6 August 1996 at 10:45 a.m. in Conference Room B of Legislative Council Building

Members present :
    Hon Edward HO Sing-tin, OBE, JP (Chairman)
    Hon Albert CHAN Wai-yip (Deputy Chairman)
    Hon James TO Kun-sun
    Dr Hon Samuel WONG Ping-wai, MBE, FEng, JP
    Hon TSANG Kin-shing
Member attending :
    Hon Emily LAU Wai-hing
Members absent :
    Hon LAU Wong-fat, OBE, JP
    Hon Ronald ARCULLI, OBE, JP
    Hon CHIM Pui-chung
    Dr Hon Philip WONG Yu-hong
    Hon CHOY Kan-pui, JP
    Hon NGAN Kam-chuen
    Hon SIN Chung-kai
Public officers attending :
    Mr Canice MAK, JP
    Deputy Secretary for Planning, Environment and
Lands/Lands & Planning
    Dr K S PUN, OBE, JP
    Director of Planning
    Mr P C CHAN
    Government Town Planner/Ordinance Review & Technical Administration
Staff in attendance :
    Ms Bernice WONG
    Miss Odelia LEUNG
    Ms Connie SZE-TO

Briefing on the Town Planning Bill

(LegCo Paper No. CB(1)1938/95-96 and a consultation paper on Town Planning Bill issued on 26 July 1996)

1. The Chairman informed members that the purpose of the meeting was to receive a briefing from the Administration on the Town Planning Bill (the Bill) gazetted on 26 July 1996. He was disappointed that the Administration had not given the Panel, which had been following up the review of the Town Planning Ordinance (TPO), any prior notice before gazettal of the Bill. Some members concurred with the Chairman and criticised the Administration for deliberately delaying the review of the TPO which began in 1991. Given that the public consultation would end on 31 December 1996 and the Administration needed some time to consolidate the public views before introducing the Bill into LegCo, the incumbent LegCo members would be left with little time or even no chance to scrutinise the Blue Bill before the change of sovereignty. Members enquired when the Blue Bill would be introduced into the Legislative Council.

2. In response, Mr Canice MAK made the following points -

  1. This was the first comprehensive review of the TPO since its enactment in the 1930s. As divergent views were received in the public consultation exercise in 1991, the Administration considered it imperative to consult the public again on the new planning legislation and therefore decided to issue the White Bill. To facilitate understanding of the Bill, the Administration prepared a consultation paper written in non-technical language outlining the major proposals.
  2. Concurrent with the gazettal of the Bill, the Secretary for Planning, Environment and Lands (SPEL) issued the Bill, the consultation paper and a letter explaining the Administration's intended course of action to all LegCo members on 26 July 1996. Noting that it was a technical bill and that members needed time to study it, SPEL had already indicated in his letter that the Administration was prepared to brief members on the Bill as and when required.
  3. The Administration anticipated that the Bill would draw considerable public comments, and would therefore need some time to consider them before finalising the proposals. As such, it would be difficult to provide a firm legislative timetable at this stage. However, members could rest assured that the Administration had no intention of holding up the review of the TPO and there was certainly no political consideration in deciding the timing for introducing the Blue Bill. The Administration would endeavour to enact it as early as practicable.

3. Mr P C CHAN then briefed members on the major proposals of the Bill which were succinctly contained in the consultation paper. The deliberations of the Panel were summarised below.

Planning structure

4. Some members expressed concern about the appointment system and the declaration of interest system for Town Planning Board (TPB) members. They were of the view that as long as TPB members continued to be appointed by the Governor, TPB meetings kept closed and TPB papers remained confidential, the representativeness and the transparency of TPB would be in question. Some members considered it necessary to enhance the transparency of TPB and to put in place a system to deal with conflict of interest of TPB members. Mr Albert CHAN was particularly concerned that TPB members who failed to declare associated interests were not subject to any sanction and that clause 76 of the Bill provided immunity to TPB members from legal liability.

5. In response, Dr K S PUN and Mr P C CHAN made the following points -

  1. At present there were already detailed guidelines on declaration of interest by TPB members. These guidelines were drawn up on the basis of the recommendations of ICAC and were issued to TPB members on their appointment. Under the current arrangements upon first appointment and every six months TPB members were required to provide detailed information on membership of associations and relationship with companies or firms. At each meeting TPB members were also required to declare direct or indirect pecuniary interest pertinent to the draft plans or planning applications under consideration. Where a member had direct or indirect interest, relevant papers would not be issued to him/her and he/she could not take part in the deliberations of TPB.
  2. The Schedule to the Bill reflected the current arrangements. It expressly provided that TPB members should declare interest on appointment and from time to time during their tenure of office. The interests to be declared and the procedures followed were clearly stipulated. The records of such declarations were made available for inspection by the public upon request.
  3. In line with all existing government advisory bodies, TPB members were appointed. In the Administration's view, the appointment system was the only one which could ensure that suitable and sufficient expertise as well as an appropriate spectrum of relevant community interests would be represented on TPB. This was important for efficient operation of TPB which made executive decisions on professional/technical matters.
  4. Like all government advisory bodies, TPB members were not subject to sanction for failure to declare pecuniary interest. In considering appointment to TPB, the Governor would take into account the integrity and credibility of the persons. Clause 76 was not relevant to the question of declaration of interest. This clause provided immunity to those persons, including TPB members, from any legal liability on their exercise of any function, duty or power authorised under TPO, e.g. when TPB was sued in a case.
  5. The Administration had considered the feasibility of opening up TPB meetings and concluded that operationally it would be difficult to hold open TPB meetings at which sensitive information was disclosed and confidential papers discussed. Under the Bill all planning applications could be released, except where the applicant requested to withhold certain sensitive information and TPB so agreed. Planning studies, draft plans and amendment plans would also be published for public comment. Both the applicant and those who had made written comments on the planning applications would be notified of TPB's decisions with reasons. A planning register containing information on statutory plans and planning applications would be established and made available for public inspection.

Public involvement in plan-making process and planning application system

6. Some members were concerned about the extent of public involvement in plan-making process. Mr TSANG Kin-shing considered the new provision requiring posting of a site notice inadequate for the purpose of keeping the public informed of the planning application. He suggested that a notice should be issued to each and every building in the district concerned to draw the residents' attention to the planning application. Whilst sharing the view that planning applications should be brought to public knowledge, some members, however, cautioned that the planning application system should not be made too complicated or too time-consuming, otherwise development might be slowed down.

7. Mr CHAN responded that public involvement would be enhanced under the new planning system. The public would be given an opportunity to comment on the planning study and the draft plan in the plan-making process, and public views would be taken into account in the preparation of outline zoning plans. Under the proposed planning application system, apart from posting a notice on the application site, a planning application would be notified in the Gazette and advertised in newspapers. Mr MAK and Dr PUN added that although administratively it would be feasible to issue a notice to each and every building in the district where the application site located, it would be difficult to draw a line geographically beyond which the notice would not have to be sent. Nevertheless, the Administration would take note of members' view on the need to bring planning applications to public knowledge.

8. Mr Albert CHAN expressed concern that under the new planning system only the applicant of a planning application could lodge an appeal against the decision of TPB. He opined that it was unfair to deprive persons who had raised an objection to the planning application of the right to appeal against TPB's decision to approve the application. Mr James TO echoed this view and said that while it might not be sensible to allow each and every member of the public to appeal against TPB's decisions, such right should at least be given to the Government who represented public interest.

9. In response, the representatives of the Administration reiterated that a planning study would be published for public comment before a new outline zoning plan was prepared or a major amendment was made to an existing plan. The Bill would also ensure that adequate time would be allowed for the public to comment on the draft plan. Hence, public views would have been taken into account when TPB prepared the draft plan and when the draft plan was submitted for approval by Governor in Council. Moreover, TPB itself was a guardian of public interest. In the Administration's view, the right way should be to further improve the operation of TPB by increasing its representativeness and openness.

Review of approved outline zoning plans

10. While expressing support for the proposal to review by TPB every approved outline zoning plan at least once every seven years, Mr Albert CHAN opined that to ensure that the review would be comprehensive with public participation, the parameters and the form of such a review should be clearly specified in the Bill.

11. In response, Mr CHAN advised that clause 31 was intended to allow TPB flexibility to review the approved plans in a cost-effective manner. There were now 89 statutory plans. In deciding how a statutory plan should be reviewed, TPB would consider many factors, such as public comments made on the plan. The public could also write to TPB to enquire about the position of the review of a statutory plan or to give suggestions on the area for review.

Planning control

12. On Mr Albert CHAN's enquiry about the control of plot ratio of a building, Mr CHAN explained that under the new proposals, transfer of unexpended gross floor area among zones within the same site would not be allowed unless with the permission of TPB. At present the Building Authority (BA) might under section 16(1)(d) of the Buildings Ordinance, (Cap. 123) refuse to approve a building plan which did not comply with the statutory plan. Under the new planning certificate system, a planning certificate issued by the Planning Authority would be a pre-requisite for approval of building plans by the BA.

Special planning control

13. Regarding Miss Emily LAU's enquiries about the provisions for special planning control, Mr CHAN explained that planning permission would be required for all designated developments (DD) and developments in any "Environmentally Sensitive Area" (ESA) and in any "Special Design Area" (SDA). All applications for development within an ESA had to be accompanied by an environmental report (ER). For example, the establishment of a power plant or a slaughterhouse would be regarded as a DD. Areas which were environmentally sensitive to development, such as the Mai Po Marshes, or areas adjoining pollution sources, would be designated as an ESA. A SDA would be an area of architectural, historical and special urban design interests and all applications for development within a SDA had to be submitted together with an urban design plan, a master layout plan and a landscape plan to ensure that the design of the proposed development would be compatible with the features of the area. Mr CHAN assured members that the public would be consulted on declaration of DD and designation of SDA at the plan-making and plan-revision stage.

Contents of plan

14. The Chairman was concerned about possible overlap between this Bill and the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Bill since both Bills required the project proponent to submit an ER on the proposed development. Mr CHAN explained that the types of information required under the two Bills were of different scope and should be complementary to each other. An ER submitted under this Bill would be for the purpose of land use planning at the macro level whereas an EIA Report under EIA Bill would be project specific and technical and would contain detailed information on the long-term environmental impact of the proposed development and on mitigation measures.

15. Dr Samuel WONG suggested that a planning application should be accompanied by a transport study as a proposed development usually had impact on the traffic and transport in the vicinity area. Mr CHAN said that the Bill had explicitly set out the power of TPB in controlling all the relevant planning parameters of development and other requirements in respect of traffic and transport, drainage and environment.

Enforcement against unauthorised development

16. The Bill provided that land owners, managers of "Tso" and "Tong", and directors of companies would be liable to offences in relation to unauthorized development. In response to Mr Albert CHAN's enquiry as to whether there were similar provisions in other ordinances, Mr CHAN said that the current TPO had provisions which achieved the same effect. The Bill only explicitly provided for it. The Administration would provide written information on other pieces of legislation having similar provisions.Admin

The way forward

17. In summing up the discussion, the Chairman urged the Administration to consider the views and suggestions made by members. He said that the Panel would further discuss the Bill in the 1996-97 LegCo session.

18. The meeting ended at 12:30 p.m.
Legislative Council Secretariat
23 October 1996

Last Updated on 21 Aug, 1998