LegCo Paper No. CB(1)872/96-97
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, 21 January 1997 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 LAU Wong-fat, OBE, JP
    Hon James TO Kun-sun
    Dr Hon Samuel WONG Ping-wai, OBE, FEng, JP
    Hon CHOY Kan-pui, JP
    Hon IP Kwok-him
    Hon NGAN Kam-chuen
    Hon SIN Chung-kai
    Hon TSANG Kin-shing

Member attending :

    Hon LEE Wing-tat

Members absent :

    Hon Ronald ARCULLI, OBE, JP
    Dr Hon John TSE Wing-ling

Public officers attending :

Items IV to VI
Mr Bowen LEUNG, JP
Secretary for Planning, Environment and Lands

Item IV
Mrs Ava NG
Government Town Planner / BD
Planning Department
Items V and VI
Mr Trevor Keen
Principal Assistant Secretary for Planning, Environment and Lands / Lands

Items V

Mr N P Burley
Principal Government Land Agent
Lands Department

Items VI

Land Registrar (Acting)
Lands Registry
Ms Barbara MAK
Business Manager
Lands Registry

Item VII

Mrs Carrie LAM
Deputy Secretary for the Treasury
Mr James Herd
Principal Assistant Secretary for the Treasury

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 Confirmation of minutes of meeting

(LegCo Paper No. CB(1)542 and 725/96-97)

The minutes of meetings held on 19 November and 12 December 1996 were confirmed.

II Date of next meeting and items for discussion

(List of outstanding items for discussion tabled)

Members agreed to discuss the following items at the next Panel meeting scheduled for 18 February 1997-

  1. The design of Pier 3 in Central and its supporting facilities; and
  2. Design - build contracts administered by the Government.

III Information papers issued since last meeting

(LegCo Paper No. CB(1)700/96-97)

Members noted the written submission on Territorial Development Strategy Review.

IV Comprehensive Development Area

(LegCo Paper No. CB(1)692/96-97(01))

Members expressed concern over the negative effects brought about by the designation of "Comprehensive Development Area" (CDA). They opined that the designation of CDA in effect froze individual developments. Individual owners of premises in CDA zones were normally unable to sell their properties nor to develop the area by themselves. Since the lead time between designating CDA zones on statutory plans and the actual redevelopment of the area was lengthy, with the slow progress of comprehensive development in certain CDA zones, for example Kennedy Town residents had to put up with deteriorating environment.

In response to members’ comments, the Secretary for Planning, Environment and Lands (SPEL) and the Government Town Planner (GTP) made the following points-

  1. The aim of designating CDA zones on statutory plans by the Town Planning Board (TPB) was to encourage comprehensive development or redevelopment to achieve better planning in the provision of environmental, infrastructure and recreational facilities. It would also encourage amalgamation of small sites for a sizeable comprehensive development and restructuring of old urban areas.
  2. The Administration did not agree that the designation of CDA zones would freeze development in these sites. Indeed persons might raise objection to designating areas on statutory plans as CDA zones in the first place. Owners might join together to develop the CDA. They did not necessarily have to rely on an outside organization for redevelopment.
  3. Of the 35 CDA sites for which no master layout plan (MLP) had been submitted, 10 were designated in 1994 and 16 in 1996. Since CDA zones were relatively large sites, development proposals studies were normally required and the procedures involved to obtain approval of the MLP would take two to three years to complete.
  4. Under the existing Town Planning Ordinance, Cap. 131, there were no statutory time limits governing the processing of objections against development proposals. The Town Planning White Bill would limit such period to within nine months. This would greatly facilitate the development process.
  5. Under the current practice, TPB reviewed the implementation of each CDA site on the fifth year after its first publication on a statutory plan and every three years thereafter. The TPB would be recommended to consider expediting the review in such a way that the first review would be done on the third year and subsequent reviews every two years thereafter. Where no MLP was submitted by the time the first review was conducted consideration would be given to making alterations to the planning of the CDA or to re-assessing the suitability of the site remaining as a CDA on the statutory plan.
  6. In proposing redevelopment within CDA, the Housing Society of Hong Kong and the Land Development Corporation would need to take into consideration the rehousing and compensation arrangements of the affected residents.

On a members’ concern about the protection of interests of individual owners whose properties were within the boundaries of CDA zones, SPEL explained that the redevelopment potential of individual properties could not be realized until and unless the properties were redeveloped. This could be in the form of the individual owners joining up to redevelop the properties or selling the properties to a developer for redeveloping the area. In a CDA, the transaction price would normally reflect the development potential of the property minus the cost for provision of public facilities as required under the statutory plans on which CDA was designated. Taking the case of redevelopment by the Land Development Corporation as an example, the price of acquiring sites in single ownership in CDA zones would be 110% of the market value of the property assessed by independent surveyors, taking into account the redevelopment value of the site. Where individual owners refused to accept the acquisition offers, separate valuation would be done again. Should owners insist on refusing the offer, the Governor-in-Council would then decide on the suitability to resume the properties in question under the Crown Land Resumption Ordinance, Cap. 124. The process of land resumption would often take a long time to complete, resulting in delays in urban redevelopment.

As regards owners’ participation in the development of CDA, SPEL explained that owners were welcome to participate but experience showed that very rarely would they agree to be partners. This was because most owners were not prepared to shoulder the liabilities and the financial risks involved in the development.

A member pointed out that the designation of CDA, although well intended for the purposes of better town planning, would deprive owners, especially those owning land in the New Territories, of their individual right to develop their land. In reply, SPEL explained that the development potential of agricultural land in the New Territories was very limited. The designation of CDA in the New Territories would provide comprehensive planning in the overall design and would ensure that the development was compatible with the surrounding environment.

On a member’s query about any successful objections against CDA, the GTP stated that there were successful cases resulting in revision of the boundaries of the CDA or even the removal of the designation altogether.

As to the time frame for the development of CDA, SPEL stated that in the case of private developers applying to designate an area as CDA zone, they would need to submit a proposed plan to TPB for consideration. If the area was eventually so designated, the development should proceed in accordance with the timetable set out in the application. For CDA zones designated on the recommendation of the Planning Department, no time limit would be set for the submission of MLP. Both private and quasi-government bodies could apply to redevelop the land by submitting MLP.

Whilst members welcomed the Administration’s proposal to advance the timetable of review undertaken by TPB on the implementation of CDA, they opined that the Administration should take steps to ensure a reasonable prospect of development before designating an area as CDA, otherwise the progress of development would be impeded as a result of the designation. In reply, SPEL reiterated that the designation of CDA was intended to serve better planning purposes. The Administration could not ensure its prospect of development because developers had a free choice in deciding whether or not to take part in the development. Nevertheless, more consultation would be provided for in the planning process. Under The Town Planning White Bill, planning studies would be subject to public consultation. This would ensure that public views would be considered at the design stage.

V Policy on land exchanges

(LegCo paper No. CB(1)692/96-97(02))

The Principal Government Land Agent (PGLA) briefly explained the two categories of exchanges, namely, in-situ land exchanges and non-in-situ land exchanges.

On the basis upon which non-in-situ land exchanges were granted, SPEL explained that these exchanges were rare and would only be considered in the following circumstances-

  1. where existing lease conditions restrict the user to a special use such as a school, which was in conflict with the town planning zoning and where it was desirable to relocate the institution concerned to a more appropriate location; and
  2. where, in layouts which were not being implemented through resumption, land was available for offer in exchange for the surrender of a building lot which was ready for redevelopment but conflicted with the layout.

The Principal Assistant Secretary for Planning, Environment and Lands added that non-in-situ land exchanges would not normally be granted unless under very special circumstances. This was because non-in-situ land exchanges were in effect private treaty grants which might affect the agreement to grant land to another developer. Wherever possible, land should be disposed of competitively either by auction or tender. Non-competitive land exchanges should be avoided.

As regards a member’s enquiry about whether non-in-situ land exchanges would be considered in respect of a piece of land, the development of which was prohibited on environmental grounds, SPEL stated that every case had to be considered on its own merits. The factors to be considered included whether the development could proceed without the required land exchange, and whether the owner had the right to develop the land for the purpose he proposed. As a matter of fact, the development potential of most agricultural land was very limited. In some cases, resumption would be considered as an alternative to land exchange.

As for in-situ land exchanges, SPEL indicated that these were more common practices, especially in cases where redevelopment of sites encompassing several smaller lots or for boundary rectification.

On the guide that the regrant area might exceed the surrendered area by up to 25%, PGLA indicated that this figure had arisen from experience in handling a number of such exchanges. PGLA stressed however, that such figure was flexible, and larger percentages would be entertained provided that the additional area was not considered practicable for independent development.

VI Capital Investment Fund - Loan to Land Registry Trading Fund

(LegCo paper No. CB(1)692/96-97(03))

The Land Registrar (Acting) (LR (Atg)) briefed members on the proposal to extend the drawdown period of the balance of the existing loan facility granted under the Capital Investment Fund to the Land Registry Trading (LRTF) to finance major capital projects. The need to extend the drawdown period was necessitated by changes in the financing and implementation of some capital projects, for example the microfilming of the New Territories land records had been extended to become a Document Imaging System to replace the LRTF’s present system under which the storing, searching and reproducing of land registration documents were conducted manually. The Document Imaging System would bring about faster and more convenient land search services and the Land Registry would benefit from savings in storage and operation costs. With the implementation of the Document Imaging System and other major projects, customers would enjoy greater convenience and better value-for-money services.

On members’ concern about the impact of the proposal on fees charged for various services, LR(Atg) stressed that the proposal would not affect the current levels or future adjustment of charges, given that the interest element would be more than offset by the savings achieved through implementation of the projects. Moreover, interest payments would not be taken into account in calculating the return rate of LRTF.

Referring to cash flow projections at the annex to the information paper, members requested the Administration to explain the substantial fluctuation in net cash inflow from operating activities in the financial year from 1995-96 to 1998-99. The Business Manager explained that the upsurge in cash inflow for 1996-97 was due to the huge increase in the number of property transactions, whereas the projected increases for the year 1997-98 to 1998-99 had taken account of general inflation and increases in business turnover. LR(Atg) maintained that the LRTF would be aiming at cost recovery based on user-pays principle and that any adjustment of fee would not exceed the rate of inflation.

VII Capital Works Reserve Fund - Block Allocations 1997-98

(LegCo Paper No. CB(1)692/96-97(04))

The Deputy Secretary for the Treasury (DS/Tsy) briefed members on the proposal to provide a total allocation of $7,523 million for all existing block allocations under the various heads of expenditure under the Capital Works Reserve Fund for 1997-98. Other than items relating to slope rectification works, the limit of each expenditure item under the block allocations was capped at $15 million. The items set out in the paper were largely related to local improvement works. The proposal would be submitted to the Public Works Subcommittee of the Finance Committee for consideration on 22 January 1997. Copies of the detailed lists of projects to be funded from the block allocations in 1997-98 would be deposited with the Legislative Council Library and the Administration would submit progress report on their implementation every three months.

Regarding the proposed allocation under Head 707 - New Towns and Urban Area Development, which showed a decrease of 19.6% over 1996-97, DS/Tsy explained that compared with the money actually spent in 1996-97, i.e. a revised estimate of $165 million, the decrease was only 0.3%.

Members noted that the proposed provisions for block allocation under Head 711 - Housing were increased by 169%. DS/Tsy explained that since this item was created last year, the base figure was small. The substantial increase was necessary in anticipation of the expenditure on studies related to production of housing. The creation of this block allocation had expedited the commissioning of minor works and studies on housing-related projects.

There being no other business, the meeting closed at 12:35 pm.

Legislative Council Secretariat
13 February 1997

Last Updated on 21 August 1998