PLC Paper No. CB(1)189
(These minutes have been seen by the Administration and cleared with the Chairman)
LegCo Panel on Planning, Lands and Works
Minutes of meeting
held on Wednesday, 11 June 1997, at 10:30 a.m.
in the Chamber of the Legislative Council Building
Members present :
Hon Edward S T HO, OBE, JP (Chairman)
Hon Albert CHAN Wai-yip (Deputy Chairman)
Hon James TO Kun-sun
Hon IP Kwok-him
Hon NGAN Kam-chuen
Hon SIN Chung-kai
Member attending :
Hon Mrs Selina CHOW, OBE, JP
Hon CHAN Yuen-han
Members absent :
Hon LAU Wong-fat, OBE, JP
Hon Ronald ARCULLI, OBE, JP
Hon CHOY Kan-pui, JP
Hon TSANG Kin-shing
Dr Hon John TSE Wing-ling
Public officers attending :
- Item II
- Mr Patrick LAU, JP
- Secretary for Planning, Environment and Lands (Acting)
- Mr Richard LUK
- Principal Assistant Secretary for Planning, Environment and Lands
- Item III
- Ms Esmond LEE
- Principal Assistant Secretary for Planning, Environment and Lands/Lands
- Mr CHEUNG Pak-ming
- Principal Land Executive/Acquisition Lands Department
- Mr Chun-wah FONG
- Senior Crop Development Officer
Agriculture and Fisheries Department
- Item IV
- Mr Michael BYRNE
- Principal Assistant Secretary (Works Policy & Safety)
- Dr Andrew MALONE
- Principal Government Geotechnical Engineer
Geotechnical Engineering Office
- Mr Tony OSTHEIMER
- Chief Estate Surveyor/Estate Management
- Mr C C TSANG
- Chief Building Surveyor/Slope Safety
- Mr H N WONG
- Senior Geotechnical Engineer
Civil Engineering Department
Attendance by invitation :
Land Development Corporation
- Item II
Hong Kong Housing Society
- Mr Abraham RAZACK, JP
- Chief Executive
- Mr K N CHAN
- Director (Finance & Administration)
- Mr Clement YING
- Senior Assistant Director (Property)
- Ms Holly LAU
- Assistant Director (Corporate Relations)
- Miss L C WONG
- Director (Estate Management)
Clerk in attendance :
- Miss Odelia LEUNG
- Chief Assistant Secretary (1)1
Staff in attendance :
- Mr Kenneth KWOK
- Senior Assistant Secretary (1)2
I Information papers issued since last meeting
(LegCo Paper Nos. CB(1)1659 and 1759/96-97)
Members noted the information papers issued since last meeting.
II Redevelopment projects of the Land Development Corporation
(LegCo Paper No. CB(1)1787/96-97(01) and (02))
At the Chairmans invitation, Mr Abraham RAZACK of the Land Development Corporation (LDC) briefed members on the redevelopment projects at Kennedy Town "Five Streets" (KTFS) and Tsuen Wan "Seven Streets" (TWSS). LDC had conducted a freezing survey between 26 and 30 April 1997 to ascertain the number of affected households. The survey showed that about 7,000 and 2,000 persons would be affected by the TWSS project and the KTFS project respectively. Affected persons could opt for cash compensation or rehousing. To resettle those who would prefer rehousing, the Hong Kong Housing Society (HKHS) estimated that 450 units on Hong Kong Island and about 1,500 units in Kowloon and the New Territories could be reserved up to 1998 and 2000 for the KTFS and TWSS projects respectively.
Some members criticised the Administration for delaying the two redevelopment projects. The Secretary for Planning, Environment and Lands (Acting) (SPEL (Atg)) said that the two projects were originally intended to be undertaken by HKHS but were handed over to LDC for various reasons. It was unfair to lay the blame on the Government. Indeed, the Administration had helped expedite the two projects by granting two pieces of land to LDC for redevelopment to compensate for projected losses in these projects.
A members considered the projected time for completion of rehousing for TWSS residents too lengthy. He opined that given the already dilapidated conditions of the buildings, it was unfair to expect the residents to put up with the poor environment for several more years. Mr RAZACK responded that as LDC was not the landlord, it could not resettle residents as efficient as in a normal landlord-tenant situation. Legally LDC had to take up ownership of the property before arranging for rehousing. It was expected that the peak of resettlement for TWSS residents would end by 2000.
In response to a member, Mr RAZACK said that LDC would liaise closely with HKHS to ensure the provision of sufficient units for affected persons who opted for rehousing. Based on existing information, the number of affected households which required rehousing were as follows -
Miss L C WONG of HKHS added that HKHS would freeze units for rehousing of affected persons. As of date, over 200 units had been reserved for the purpose. Where necessary, single persons might share a larger unit.
Members considered joint rehousing unsatisfactory since this had given arise to conflicts in the past. A member opined that the number of one-person units would fall far short of demands. He doubted the availability of sufficient units to rehouse affected persons who so opted. Some members considered that the Hong Kong Housing Authority (HA) should assist in rehousing affected persons. A member enquired if the Sandwich Class Housing units could be used for rehousing purpose and whether redevelopment of Kwun Lung Lau and Tanner Hill Estate would affect the supply of HKHS units for LDCs two projects.
SPEL (Atg) said that as explained by SPEL at the Legislative Council Sitting on 21 May 1997, HA was responsible for developing public housing and rehousing persons affected by clearance. Nevertheless, HA was ready to assist by allowing advance rehousing of eligible residents in TWSS and KTFS who were on the public rental housing waiting list and were due for an allocation of flat within 12 months. Nevertheless, it was premature to conclude that there would be insufficient units for rehousing as the number of affected persons who so opted had yet to be ascertained. SPEL (Atg) noted members view on the need to secure HA in providing rehousing assistance and agreed to reflect this to HA. Mr RAZACK added that LDC had resettled in the past nine years all eligible persons in redevelopment projects and he was confident that no eligible persons would be left homeless in these two projects.
Regarding Sandwich Class Housing units, Miss WONG said that these were intended for a different target group, ie the sandwich class. She assured members that redevelopment of Kwun Lung Lau and Tanner Hill Estate would not affect the availability of HKHS units for LDCs two projects. About 400 households of Kwun Lung Lau and Tanner Hill Estate chose to buy private flats. Three new blocks in Healthy Village would be ready for occupation in August 1997. HKHS envisaged that adequate units would be made available to rehouse residents of Kwun Lung Lau, Tanner Hill, and KTFS by the end of 1998.
Hon James TO declared that he was a member of LDC. In reply to his question on the percentage of affected persons who had chosen cash compensation as opposed to rehousing in LDCs past projects, Mr RAZACK said that the ratio of affected persons opted for rehousing to cash compensation was 3 to 7. As far as single-person households were concerned, half of them chose cash compensation. However, the situation at KTFS and TWSS might be different in view of the large number of new immigrants at the former and elderly people at the latter. Since LDC normally offered a more generous cash compensation than the Government, this would be an incentive for opting for cash compensation in lieu of rehousing. Members requested the Administration to provide information on the number of one-person units available for rehousing residents in KTFS and TWSS in the coming years.
Members suggested that LDC should consider rehousing tenants of commercial premises which were used partly for domestic purpose and occupants of unauthorised structures for a long period of time. Mr RAZACK advised that such tenants were not eligible for rehousing but LDC would consider compassionate cases. Members requested LDC to review the eligibility criteria and opined that an attractive compensation package would mitigate the demand for rehousing. Mr RAZACK agreed to consider members view.
A member pointed out that under the revised Home Purchase Allowance (HPA) policy, HPA would be paid at 50% of the full allowance for one tenanted flat per owner per resumption exercise. He was of the view that a higher compensation rate should be payable to owners who had to live on the rents of tenanted flats and owners who had rent outed the flats for a long time. Mr RAZACK responded that the compensation package offered by LDC had been reasonable in the past. Experience showed that around 60% to 70% of affected owners in redevelopment projects were willing to sell their units within six months. Nevertheless, he agreed to relay members views to the Managing Board for consideration.
A member opined that some landlords refused to renew tenancy of commercial units in order to get higher compensation. He suggested that tenants of such premises prior to the freezing survey should be eligible for compensation. Mr RAZACK responded that this would incur additional costs to the projects. Nevertheless, he agreed to convey the suggestion to the Managing Board. He added that the details of the compensation scheme would be announced by the end of June 1997.
Concerning valuation, SPEL (Atg) said that two independent surveys of the property affected would be conducted by LDC and the higher valuation would be adopted as the basis for compensation. Owners who disagreed with the valuation might appoint another surveyor for a separate assessment. Should a higher value be arrived at, LDC would shoulder the cost for the assessment.
III Compensation for loss of crop upon land resumption and appeal mechanism
(LegCo Paper Nos. CB(1)1812 and 1849/96-97)
At the Chairmans invitation, the Principal Assistant Secretary for Planning, Environment and Lands (PAS/PEL) briefed members on the paper. In gist, the current policy was to pay ex-gratia allowances to cultivators in respect of crops grown within the resumption or clearance boundary. The policy had worked well and the Administration did not consider it necessary to change it.
A member pointed out that disputes had arisen in relation to the assessment of the crops affected and the rates of ex-gratia allowances used. He called on the Administration to enhance transparency in the assessment process. PAS/PEL said that staff from the Agricultural and Fisheries Department (AFD) and the Lands Department conducted field inspection in the presence of the farmers concerned. Records were kept on the particulars of the crops and their quantities, and were relayed to the farmers concerned. Senior Crop Development Officer, Agriculture and Fisheries Department (SCDO) added that the preliminary data recorded during field inspection were subsequently transcribed into a schedule which would be forwarded to the Lands Department with the necessary information for calculation and payment of ex-gratia allowances on site given the numerous types of crops that might be involved and the different rates of ex-gratia allowances applicable to crops at different stages of growth. As such, it was not feasible to provide an on-site report to the farmers concerned. Farmers might inspect the reports upon completion.
Members suggested compiling a checklist setting out the most common types of crops to facilitate field recording. After on-site assessment, a copy of the field record should be provided to the farmers at once. PAS/PEL agreed to consider the suggestion.
Concerning compensation for land resumption, a member considered the existing compensation unfair and enquired if the Administration would take into account the intended usage of the resumed land in calculating compensation. PAS/PEL said that an ex-gratia zonal compensation system for resumption of land in the New Territories had been in force for many years. The ex-gratia compensation rates for different zones were different, taking account of the potential sue of the land on the basis of its location and proximity to New Town Development Areas. Land falling within New Town Development areas had the highest land value and attracted the highest rate under the system. The Administration considered the existing system fair and reasonable. The Administration could not accept the suggestion of compensating affected landowners at the market rate reflecting the intended residential or commercial use of the resumed land as this represented a significant departure from the fundamental principle of assessing the value of land for its existing use in any resumption exercise. Land resumed under the Crown Lands Resumption Ordinance, Cap. 124, had to be for a public purpose only. Any affected persons who disagreed with the compensation could appeal to the Lands Tribunal.
IV Slope safety
(LegCo Paper Nos. CB(1)1499 and 1772/96-97)
At the Chairmans invitation, the Principal Government Geotechnical Engineer (PGGE) briefed members on the progress on the implementation of the recommendations in the Morgenstern Report, the Slope Safety Review Report and the Select Committee Report on the Kwun Lung Lau Landslide. The Technical Review Board, established in 1995, had held five meetings and made a number of recommendations for further improvements in landslide risk management. A programme for monitoring and inspection of buried services had been developed and was being actively pursued. The acceleration of the Landslip Preventive Measures (LPM) Programme was proceeding well. The expenditure on slope upgrading had increased five-fold as compared with that before the acceleration. Annual LPM expenditure would be further increased to $800 million in 1997-98. On the promotion of slope maintenance, the Publicity Campaign on Slope Maintenance was getting impact as shown in public opinion polls and surveys. However, as only about 40% of private slopes were properly maintained, the Administration considered it necessary to strengthen education. The commencement of the SIMAR (Systematic Identification of Maintenance Responsibility of Registered Slopes in the Territory) consultancy study by the Lands Department in July 1996 was an important step towards the implementation of the policy that every man-made slope affecting life and property must be maintained to ensure its safety. The Administration expected that the legal issue concerning release of the results of the study would soon be resolved. PGGE added that the 5-year LPM Project would be completed by 2000. Geotechnical Engineering Office (GEO) would request for conversion of certain temporary posts into permanent posts to continue with the work at the same rate for the first decade of 2000. The existing Slope Catalogue compiled in 1977/78 contained some 10,000 pre-GEO slopes. The total number of sizeable man-made slopes in the Territory was currently estimated to be more than 60,000. The task of compiling a new Slope Catalogue would be extended to mid 1998, as the number of slopes to be handled was more than expected.
The Chairman was concerned about the safety of some 30,000 additional pre-GEO slopes which had not been included in the 1977/78 Slope Catalogue. PGGE responded that the risk of these slopes existed whether or not they were catalogued. The Administration aimed at reducing the risk of these slopes by 50% as a result of the LPM Programme by the end of the decade and a further 50% in another 10 years.
A member sought information on three old masonry walls which required follow-up actions as mentioned in para 3(a) of LegCo Paper No. CB(1)1499/96-97. PGGE agreed to provide written information.
In response to a member, PGGE said that since 1990, the GEO had been studying landslip on natural hillsides. An inventory of more than 27,000 landslips had been published and was available for public inspection. A new landslip risk management system would be recommended for adoption within 12 months. The lesser priority given to natural hillsides was in accordance with relative risk. The risk from man-made slopes was much higher.
A member pointed out that private owners might not know the way to follow up on receipt of a dangerous hillside order. He enquired if GEO was ready to provide assistance. PGGE responded that the GEO had issued a book in 1996 entitled "What to do when you received a dangerous hillside order" which set out the follow-up procedures and general guidelines including the costs for different types of remedial works. The book had been widely distributed. GEO would assist owners who had genuine difficulties, as resources permitted. The Chief Building Surveyor/Slope Safety of Buildings Department (CBS) added that the Buildings Department (BD), on receipt of an advice from GEO to issue a dangerous hillside order, would make an independent judgement as to whether to issue the order. If a private owner received a dangerous hillside order, he/she should employ an Authorized Person to give technical advice on the matter including services provided by the consultants. If necessary, BD was ready to provide general advice on the qualifications of consultants and the minimum standards of remedial works to be required under the Buildings Ordinance.
With the Chairmans consent, members discussed LegCo Paper No. CB(1)1598/96-97 entitled "Inspection of Squatter Villages on Slope Safety Grounds in the New Territories". A member referred to the recent Kau Wah Keng landslip and raised serious concern about safety of squatter villages on slope grounds and reliability of the inspection system. PGGE responded that the incident involved a detached squatter hut which was outside the main boundary of the village and therefore outside the inspected area. Consequent to the incident, the Administration would review the system and identify if any isolated dwellings outside the boundary of the 200 squatter villages which had been checked needed inspection.
The Chairman enquired if the Administration would accord priority to inspect detached squatters. PGGE answered that priority was set on the basis of risk. The programme to inspect certain squatter villages on slope safety grounds in the New Territories had yet to be completed. The Administration intended to extend the programme to cover more villages. There were considerable backlog of cases awaiting clearance and rehousing.
Members opined that the Administration should expeditiously complete inspection of all squatter villages including detached dwellings on slope grounds. They considered it more cost-effective to carry out inspection in parallel with rehousing. Once the squatters concerned were rehoused, the structures should be demolished immediately. It was not uncommon that these structures were soon re-occupied, thus perpetuating the problem and wasting resources. PGGE noted members view. The Chief Estate Surveyor/Estate Management of Lands Department (CES) informed members that a priority system for clearance within the NDC programme was being adopted.
Members agreed that the Chairman should write to the Financial Secretary requesting an increase of resource to GEO and the Lands Department to complete the squatter village inspection programme at an early date and carry out immediate demolition of vacated structures upon resettlement of squatters.
(Post-meeting note : the letter was issued on 13 June 1997.)
V Any other business
There being no other business, the meeting ended at 12:35 pm.
Provisional Legislative Council Secretariat
2 September 1997
Last Updated on 21 August 1998