LegCo Paper No. CB(1)840/96-97
Ref: CB1/PL/PLW/1 (These minutes have been seen by the Administration)

LegCo Panel on Planning, Lands and Works

Minutes of meeting
held on Tuesday, 17 December 1996 at 10:45 a.m.
in Conference Room A of the Legislative Council Building

Members present :

    Hon Edward S T HO, OBE, JP (Chairman)
    Hon Albert CHAN Wai-yip (Deputy Chairman)
    Hon Ronald ARCULLI, OBE, JP
    Hon James TO Kun-sun
    Hon IP Kwok-him
    Hon NGAN Kam-chuen
    Hon SIN Chung-kai
    Dr Hon John TSE Wing-ling

Member attending :

    Hon James TIEN Pei-chun, OBE, JP

Members absent :

    Hon LAU Wong-fat, OBE, JP
    Dr Hon Samuel WONG Ping-wai, OBE, FEng, JP
    Hon CHOY Kan-pui, JP
    Hon TSANG Kin-shing

Public officer attending :
Items III to VI
Mr Canice C F MAK
Deputy Secretary for Planning, Environment and Lands/Lands & Planning

Item III
Chief Town Planner/Central Enforcement and Prosecution
Planning Department
Government Land Agent/Task Force Black Spots
Lands Department

Item IV
Director of Lands
Government Land Agent/Headquarters
Lands Department

Item V
Government Town Planner/Ordinance Review and Technical Administration
Planning Department

Item VI
Assistant Director of Buildings/Legal and Management
Acting Chief Building Surveyor/Legal Buildings

Clerk in attendance :
Miss Odelia LEUNG
Chief Assistant Secretary (1)1

Staff in attendance :
Ms Bernice WONG
Assistant Legal Adviser 1
Mrs Mary TANG
Senior Assistant Secretary (1)2

I Date of next meeting and items for discussion

(List of outstanding items for discussion tabled)

Members agreed that the following items would be discussed at the next Panel meeting, scheduled for 21 January 1997-
  1. Comprehensive Development Area;
  2. Policy on land exchanges; and
  3. Briefing on Government Rent (Assessment and Collection) Bill.

(Post-meeting note: As a Bills Committee on the Government Rent (Assessment and Collection) Bill was formed at the House Committee on 20 December 1996 (and immediately commenced scrutiny work), the Chairman agreed that to avoid duplication of work, item (c) should be deleted and at the Administration's request was replaced by "Capital Investment Fund - Loan to Land Registry Trading Fund".

II Information papers issued since last meeting

Members noted that no information paper had been issued since last meeting.

III Briefing on Task Force Black Spots

(LegCo Paper Nos. CB(1)458/96-97, 498/96-97(01))

The Deputy Secretary for Planning, Environment and Lands (DS/PEL) briefly explained the role of the Task Force (Black Spots) (TFB) in Lands Department and the Central Enforcement and Prosecution Section (CEPS) in Planning Department in the clearance of environmental black spots in the New Territories. In gist, TFB dealt with environmental black spots classified as existing uses (EUs), i.e. uses existed before 1991 and were tolerated under the Town Planning Ordinance (TPO) Cap. 131, whereas CEPS dealt with enforcement actions against unauthorized developments (UDs). The Administration would continue its efforts to clean up these environmental black spots and to take enforcement actions against UDs. Planning Department was actively engaged in identifying and rezoning suitable sites for storage and container uses.

With the aid of slides, the Government Land Agent/TFB reported the progress of work of TFB which included actions at the Pat Heung Pilot Action Area, the Ha Tsuen and Lau Fau Shan Container Action Area and the North District (East) Action Area. TFB had also considered undertakings for in-situ environmental improvement works. Efforts were made to seek the cooperation of operators of EU undertakings.

Members were concerned about the extent of the problem, including the number of environmental black spots classified as EUs and of UDs existed after 1991. This would give a broader view of the situation in the whole New Territories. In response, representatives of the Administration made the following points-
  1. Since the establishment of CEPS in mid-1994, it had broadly controlled the unscrupulous proliferation of UDs in the rural parts of the New Territories. A total of 16,900 ha of rural areas had been subject to statutory planning enforcement control under the TPO. Up to 31 October 1996, some 410 UDs occupying about 130 ha of land had been discontinued. Another 125 UDs covering about 60 ha had been regularized through planning permission system as a result of enforcement actions. At present, CEPS was taking actions on 722 UDs, occupying about 247 ha of land. Of these, about 15% were newly reported UDs but the majority existed before 1995, just after or before the establishment of CEPS.
  2. It was difficult to provide a breakdown on the number of EUs and UDs because of the constantly changing situation. TFB would be concentrating their efforts in pilot action areas where the main environmental black spots were situated. CEPS would continue to take prosecution action against UDs to contain the problem.
  3. TFB was in the process of updating information on container and open storage uses throughout the New Territories.

Members requested the Administration to conduct a survey on environmental black spots in the whole New Territories and to provide a breakdown on the areas occupied by EUs and UDs as at different dates.

Regarding the time frame for the clearance of environmental black spots, the Government Land Agent/TFB explained that TFB had been working on an intensive action area basis under a ten-year rolling programme. Efforts would be made to speed up the programme as far as possible, but the problem had proved more complex than envisaged. Taking the Pat Heung Action Area as an example, there were 400 undertakings to be dealt jointly with CEPS. Some of these undertakings were EUs while others were UDs and each structure had to be identified and analyzed. In many of these cases, unauthorized structures existed within EUs and these would further complicate the issue. A freezing survey had been conducted to differentiate between EUs and UDs. The former would be dealt with by TFB while the latter by CEPS.

A member reiterated the concerns raised by the Alliance on the Concern of New Territories Land Uses (the Alliance's submission had been circulated to members vide LegCo Paper No. CB(1)458/96-97). He stressed the need to make available adequate storage spaces for container uses since container trade played an important role in the economic development of Hong Kong. The Chairman asked the Administration to provide a written response to the submission of the Alliance. Admin

IV Land exchanges under the Helping Business Programme

(LegCo Paper No. CB(1)498/96-97(02))

The Government Land Agent/Headquarters explained that one of the pilot studies in phase one of the Helping Business Programme (the Programme) was to review the process involved in applying for lease modifications and land exchanges. The objectives of the study were to expedite this process, and to improve the openness of procedures and accountability of the decision making process. After extensive consultation within the Lands Department, professionals in the private practice and major property institutions, a final report on the consultants' findings was prepared. He briefly took members through the list of recommendations as outlined in the information paper.

The Chairman welcomed the improvements proposed under the Programme which would not only help business but benefit the general public as well. Apart from expediting processing of land exchanges and lease modifications, the Chairman asked if the processes involved in vetting master layout plans and approving design, disposition and height etc. by the Lands Department could also be expedited under the Programme. In response, the Director of Lands (D of L) affirmed that these after-grant procedures could also be expedited with a view to streamlining the whole process of land disposal.

In response to a member's concern about the recent up surge in property prices and the need for the Administration to coordinate the efforts of Government departments in improving efficiency with a view to shortening the lead time for the supply of residential units, DS/PEL stated that the Administration was fully aware of the situation. He agreed that the lead time for the supply of residential units was dependent upon land grant and disposal processes, and affirmed that the Planning, Environment and Lands Branch (PELB) was actively working with the Housing Branch on the means to expedite housing supply. He, however, stressed that the Administration could only control part of the process because developers also had their role to play in accelerating the process through cooperation with Government departments concerned.

The D of L supplemented by saying that during the current financial year, there had been agreement on nine major cases giving rise to a supply of 18,000 flats, which doubled the average yearly production of flats from lease modifications and land exchanges.

On the development of client-oriented culture within different Government departments to increase efficiency as a whole, the D of L explained that a Human Resources Management Plan was being developed to better serve the community. The concept of efficiency was introduced; a customer-oriented policy to streamline processes and procedures was established; and a more open system to strengthen regular contacts with applicants was adopted.

V Town Planning White Bill

(LegCo Paper No. CB(1)1938/95-96, 243, 346 and 498/96-97 (03))

Members noted that there would be a motion debate on the Town Planning White Bill at the LegCo Sitting on 18 December 1996. The Government Town Planner/Ordinance Review and Technical Administration briefly explained the main issues which were raised in the submissions received during the public consultation period, as outlined in the information paper. DS/PEL reminded members that the consultation period would end on 31 December 1996 and any further comments on the White Bill before that date were welcome.

VI Design Manual - Barrier Free Access 1996

(LegCo Paper No. CB(1)1822/95-96 and 498/96-97 (04))

The Assistant Director of Buildings/Legal and Management (AD of B) informed members that the consultation on the draft Design Manual - Barrier Free Access 1996 (the Manual) ended on 10 August 1996. In order to enforce the obligatory design requirements in the Manual, which would be brought into effect by March 1997, the Administration was preparing the amendments to the subsidiary legislation and Codes of Practice listed out in the Manual. Under the manual, building plans of newly constructed buildings or alteration works in private buildings would need to comply with the design requirements in providing access to persons with a disability.

As regards members' concern about whether the design requirements would be enforced upon existing private premises, AD of B explained that the new requirements did not apply to existing premises except in cases where major alteration works were involved, or where there had been changes in the usage of the building. For existing buildings undergoing major alteration works, there was a proviso in the Manual which stated that the design requirements had to be reasonable in the circumstances. These requirements might be waived if there were limitations in the existing physical structure of the building. However, for newly constructed buildings, exemptions would not normally be granted. Admin.

Members asked that with the enactment of the Equal Opportunities Ordinance, whether the Administration would consider implementing step-by-step measures to overcome accessibility problems in public premises frequented by the disabled, they were also concerned about access problems caused by road curbs. In response, DS/PEL explained that access problems associated with public roads and works were not within the purview of PELB. At members' request, he agreed to liaise with the Works Branch and other Government departments to provide the Panel with a written response to the concerns raised.

Members opined that Government should take the lead in providing barrier free access to all Government buildings and public amenities. DS/PEL agreed to reflect members' views to the departments concerned. Admin

There being no other business, the meeting closed at 12:45 pm.

Legislative Council Secretariat
4 February 1997

Last Updated on 21 August 1998