Legislative Council

LC Paper No. CB(1)303/98-99


LegCo Panel on Planning, Lands and Works
Minutes of meeting held on Thursday, 10 September 1998, at 10:45 am in Conference Room A of the Legislative Council Building

Members present :

Hon Edward HO Sing-tin, JP (Chairman)
Hon HO Sai-chu, JP
Dr Hon Raymond HO Chung-tai, JP
Hon LEE Wing-tat
Hon Ronald ARCULLI, JP
Hon James TO Kun-sun
Hon WONG Yung-kan
Hon LAU Kong-wah
Hon LAU Wong-fat, GBS, JP
Hon Andrew CHENG Kar-foo

Members absent :

Hon TAM Yiu-chung, JP

Non-Panel members :

Hon Cyd HO Sau-lan
Hon Fred LI Wah-ming

Public officers :
For all items attending

Mr Patrick LAU
Deputy Secretary for Planning,
Environment and Lands (Lands and Planning)

Item IV

Project Manager / Kowloon
Territory Development Department

Mr Peter P C MOK
Senior Engineer / Kowloon East
Territory Development Department

Item V

Project Manager / Kowloon
Territory Development Department

Chief Engineer / Kowloon West
Territory Development Department

Item VI

Mr Esmond LEE
Principal Assistant Secretary for Planning,
Environment and Lands (Lands)

Mr CHAN Man-chiu
Chief Land Executive Lands Department

Mr POON Tim-nin
Senior Land Executive Lands Department

Item VII

Mr Esmond LEE
Principal Assistant Secretary for Planning,
Environment and Lands (Lands)

Director of Buildings

Mr IP Pui-lun
Chief Structural Engineer Buildings Department
Clerk in attendance :
Miss Odelia LEUNG,
Chief Assistant Secretary (1)1
Staff in attendance :
Mrs Mary TANG,
Senior Assistant Secretary (1)2
I Confirmation of minutes of meeting
(LegCo Paper No. CB(1)139/98-99)

The minutes of meeting on 23 July 1998 were confirmed.

II Date of next meeting and items for discussion

2. Members agreed to receive policy briefings from the Secretary for Planning, Environment and Lands and the Secretary for Works on the Chief Executive's Policy Address 1998 relating to their respective policy areas at the next meeting of the Panel scheduled for 15 October 1998. As the Administration proposed two other items for discussion at the meeting, viz the Central Registration System and the Wanchai Reclamation Phase II - consultants' fee and site investigations, the Panel agreed to start the meeting at 10:00 am.

III Information papers issued since last meeting
(LegCo Paper Nos. CB(1)146/98-99 and CB(1)158/98-99)

3. Members noted that the following information papers were issued since the last meeting -
  1. Information paper on Consultation on Central and Wanchai Reclamation; and

  2. Information paper on Building Safety Improvement Loan Scheme.
IV South East Kowloon Development at Kai Tak Airport - site investigations and consultants' fees
(LegCo Paper No. CB(1)167/98-99(01))

4. The Chairman asked members to note the Outline Master Development Plan (OMDP) for South East Kowloon Development tabled at the meeting.

5. Noting that the Administration held a press conference earlier in the month on the proposed South East Kowloon Development (SEKD), the Chairman enquired about the timetable of the proposed development. In response, the Project Manager / Kowloon, Territory Development Department (PM/TDD) explained as follows -
  1. The Town Planning Board (TPB) endorsed all the Outline Zoning Plans (OZPs) of SEKD in August 1998 which were gazetted on 4 September 1998 for public consultation;

  2. The SEKD would be implemented in four development packages, namely -

    1. North Apron of Kai Tak Airport;

    2. Kai Tak Nullah / Kwun Tong Typhoon Shelter;

    3. Kowloon Bay Reclamation Phase 1; and

    4. Kowloon Bay Reclamation Phase 2.

    The proposed developments would go through the normal gazettal process.

  3. As part of the early development package, funding approval for the implementation of stage 1 of SEKD at Kai Tak Airport - decontamination and site preparation had been sought and the pilot test for the decontamination works were expected to start in September 1998; and

  4. The present funding proposal to be submitted to the Public Works Subcommittee for consideration on 23 September 1998 covered site investigation works in the north apron area and the detailed design of infrastructure including roads, drainage, sewerage and water supply systems to serve developments in the area. The proposed works were part of stage 1 of SEKD. Since these works did not involve reclamations, they could be carried out as soon as funding approval was given.

6. The Deputy Secretary for Planning, Environment and Lands (Lands and Planning) (DS/PEL) supplemented that members of the public could submit to TPB their views and objections to the seven draft OZPs relating to SEKD within two months after the date of gazettal. Upon consideration of the objections raised, TPB might reject the objections in whole or in part or might make amendments to the draft OZPs to address the objections. The draft OZPs with amendments, if any, together with any unwithdrawn objections, would then be submitted to the Executive Council for a final decision. Where the objections raised were associated with reclamations over and upon foreshore and sea-bed, these would be dealt with separately under the Foreshore and Sea-bed (Reclamations) Ordinance.

7. The Chairman expressed concern on the appropriateness of seeking funds to implement stage I of SEKD before the end of the consultation period. He pointed out that TPB might make amendments to the draft OZPs to address objections which would possibly affect site investigation works and the detailed design of infrastructure for stage I of SEKD. His view was shared by other members of the Panel who were concerned that the proposed works would be rendered abortive if amendments were made to the draft OZPs. Furthermore, works at different stages should be interrelated. Unless and until the entire SEKD had been confirmed, it was not appropriate to proceed with the works in stage I.

8. In response, DS/PEL advised that unless the objections raised led to major changes to the overall SEKD plans, these should not affect the proposed works. PM/TDD added that the proposed works included essential works such as upgrading and extension of Sung Wong Toi Road and associated drainage, sewerage and watermains as well as provision of necessary environmental protection measures etc., all of which had to be undertaken whether or not changes would be made to the proposed SEKD. To tie in with the housing development programme in the north apron area, the infrastructural works had to be commissioned as early as possible. PM/TDD assured that the different stages of SEKD, in particular stages 3 and 4 involving Kowloon Bay Reclamation Phases 1 and 2, were necessarily independent of each other. Amendments to the proposed development packages in these stages would not affect the proposed detailed design and site investigation works for stage I.

9. As regards the interface of the proposed stage I infrastructure with the remainder of the SEKD, the Senior Engineer/Kowloon East, Territory Development Department referred members to the OMDP tabled at the meeting. He stated that the proposed project would involve detailed design and site investigation works for the construction of roads and associated drainage, sewerage and watermains in the north apron area which were needed to accommodate the target population of about 130,000.

10. On a member's concern about how the transport infrastructure could tie in with the housing development programme, PM/TDD made the following points -
  1. The capacity of the existing transport infrastructure would be sufficient to meet the need of the first target population at the Kai Tak airport site in 2003. Additional transport network would be needed by 2006;

  2. The SEKD Feasibility Study had taken into account the transport needs of a target population of 320,000 upon the completion of the four stages of SEKD; and

  3. The possible railway network which was intended to form the mass transit system to serve the entire SEKD would be reviewed in the context of the Second Railway Development Study. It would look into a possible South East Kowloon Line and a possible West East Line. The Study commenced in March 1998 and would be completed in September 1999. Initial recommendations would be available in early 1999.
11. Regarding the problem of ground contamination at the north apron area, members noted that decontamination works would start in late September 1998 to provide a hazard-free environment prior to development. The Administration would adopt the safest decontamination method to minimize disturbance to the public. Consideration would also be given to seeking damages from fuel companies for ground contamination.

12. As to the problem of odour nuisance and the decking of Kai Tak Nullah, PM/TDD advised that these would be dealt with under stage 2 of SEKD and funding approval would be sought in early 1999. Since this stage would involve reclamations and it would take time to complete the process of consultation and resolution of objections, biochemical methods would be used in the mean time to treat contaminated deposits to eliminate the odour generated from the Nullah. The Nullah would be replaced by box culverts in part and a new open channel for the remainder to facilitate housing and transport development. The open channel would run across the proposed metropolitan park. PM/TDD stressed that should the open channel be designed as a culvert, its width would need to be 110 metres because of the large volume of stormwater to be transported. Moreover, an open channel would facilitate repair and desilting works. Since the sewerage improvement works upstream would reduce pollution substantially, water in the open channel would be basically rainwater. It should not emit odour. The water should be clean enough to allow the possibility of recreational activities in the open channel.

13. A member expressed concern that the design of the drainage system in stage I would have a bearing on that in the subsequent stages of SEKD. PM/TDD concurred that drainage networks were interrelated but provided that the major network of the drainage system remained unchanged, minor alignments could be adjusted to meet the needs of development. DS/PEL added that the proposed detailed design would take about 12 months to complete. Before then, the TPB should have completed consideration of the objections received and would reach a decision on SEKD. The detailed design of infrastructure could fully take the necessary adjustments into account.

14. Responding to a member's concern about possible exacerbation of flooding problems at the hinterland by the proposed reclamation works at Kowloon Bay, PM/TDD advised that the completed feasibility study had looked into the effect of reclamations on the drainage capacity of the hinterland. A more detailed study would be conducted shortly and preferably the improvement works could commence before reclamation. The study would also look into the compatibility of different stages of drainage developments. The Administration noted members' concern about the need for flexibility in the design of drainage network to cater for development in stages.

15. Since members considered it necessary to deliberate on the proposed SEKD in detail before deciding whether the funding proposal for stage I detailed design and site investigation works should be approved, they agreed to hold a special meeting before the Public Works Subcommittee meeting on 23 September 1998.

(Post meeting note: The special meeting was arranged on 17 September 1998 at 4:30 pm.)

V West Kowloon Reclamation - southern area phase 4 and remaining roadworks stage 2
(LC Paper No. CB(1)167/98-99(02))

16. At the invitation of the Chairman, PM/TDD briefly explained the progress of the West Kowloon Reclamation (WKR) project. Most of the reclamation works had been completed and the Administration was now proceeding to the last phase of the reclamation works to provide 12.7 hectares of land in the southern area of WKR for the West Kowloon Station of the West Rail, residential and commercial developments, open space and road network. The project would include construction of about two kilometers of roads and three footbridges, associated drainage, sewerage and landscaping works.

17. A member said that he was given to understand the Yaumatei fruit wholesale market could not be reprovisioned because of a lack of access roads. Referring to the map attached to the information paper, he asked whether the proposed Road L5 could serve this purpose. The Chief Engineer/Kowloon West, Territory Development (CE/TDD) explained that Road L5 was intended to serve the proposed housing development in the vicinity and would not provide access to the wholesale market.

18. A member pointed out the need for inclusion of more information on the proposed project in the paper to be submitted to the Public Works Subcommittee for consideration. The proposed remaining works should be categorized for easy reference. He also stressed the need to optimize the use of reclaimed land in the design of road network, particularly for roads leading from Yaumatei to Tai Kok Tsui. CE/TDD briefly explained the proposed system of road network along West Kowloon as shown in the map. The Administration agreed to provide further information on the road network, including the capacity of roads leading to the Public Cargo Working Area.

19. Members noted that the entire WKR project would be completed upon the finalization of the remaining works, except for the construction of a ferry pier, the plan of which had been shelved by the Transport Department in January 1998 as it was considered not necessary for the time being.

VI Control of display of non-commercial publicity material
(LC Paper No. CB(1)167/98-99(03))

20. A member queried the appropriateness of having chosen Wanchai district to launch the trial scheme given that there were few public housing estates in the area and that competition for display of publicity materials was not keen. He opined that the outcome of the scheme could turn out to be quite different had a more populated area been chosen.

21. In response, the Principal Assistant Secretary for Planning, Environment and Lands (Lands) (PAS/PEL) explained that the trial scheme aimed to control display of non-commercial publicity material at public places. The scheme was not intended to cover areas falling within the management of the Housing Department, such as public housing estates. The scheme would also not apply to facilities managed by the Municipal Councils. Nevertheless, departments concerned always liaised amongst themselves for more effective control of display of non-commercial publicity materials. Given the success of the trial scheme, the Government would implement the scheme territory-wide by contracting out the processing of applications. The implementation would be in two phases, the first phase covering the New Territories and the second phase Hong Kong Island and Kowloon. The Administration would make an effort to resolve any problems encountered in the first phase before proceeding to the second phase.

22. Some members expressed reservations over the system of allocation of designated spots as stipulated in paragraph 7(b) of the information paper. Their views were summarized as follows -
  1. A different allocation system should apply to Legislative Council Members elected from geographical constituencies. Unlike those elected from functional constituencies the voters of which were not district bound, Legislative Council Members elected from geographical constituencies did not need a designated spot in each of the 18 districts but would prefer to have several designated spots for display of publicity materials in the districts from which they were elected;

  2. There should be flexibility in using the designated spots such as allowing members to use the allocated spots jointly in displaying publicity materials or to swap designated spots amongst themselves; and

  3. Each member should be allocated a fixed number of designated spots but in districts of their choice.
23.PAS/PEL thanked members for the suggestions. He explained that out of the 400 designated spots within each district, 250 were reserved for members of the Legislative Council, Provisional District Boards and Municipal Councils, and 150 spots left for allocation to the public. The increase in the number of spots allocated to members would inevitably decrease the number of spots made available to the public. Nevertheless, he noted the need for flexibility in allocating these spots and would look into the possibility of increasing the total number of designated spots.

24. As regards the cost of contracting out the processing of applications under the scheme, PAS/PEL advised that the cost would be expected to be around $8 million for a period of two years, but the exact amount would depend on the results of the tender.

25. Members sought clarification on the reasons for contracting out the work and the scope of the work to be contracted out. A member pointed out that the work in question involved approval of applications, which in effect was a delegation of power from the Government to private contractors. He enquired if this was the first of its kind and was concerned whether this would become a policy on the part of the Administration.

26. In response, representatives of the Administration explained as follows -
  1. Presently, the processing of applications was done by staff of the Lands Department through internal deployment. The work proposed to be contracted out was mainly administrative in nature including inviting applications for the use of designated spots, processing applications and where necessary, arranging allocation by ballot, and inviting applicants to witness the ballot;

  2. It was more cost effective to contract out the administrative work. Guidelines would be set by the Lands Department on processing of applications. Notwithstanding the contracting out, the responsibility for control of display of non-commercial publicity material ultimately rested with the Administration;

  3. The Administration had sought legal advice on the proposed arrangement and was advised that it was in order; and

  4. The proposed arrangement was not the first of its kind. The Lands Department had contracted out part of the processing work of small house applications.
27. A member expressed reservation on the proposal, which in his view, was a policy change and would have serious implications on Government's establishment. He indicated that he would consider taking the matter up with the Administration.

VII Monitoring mechanism in respect of piling works in construction sites
(LC Paper No. CB(1)167/98-99(04))

28. At the invitation of members, the Director of Buildings (D of B) explained the existing control mechanism on piling works in construction sites. Under the mechanism, Authorized Persons (APs), Registered Structural Engineers (RSEs), Registered General Building Contractors (RGBCs) and Registered Specialist Contractors (RSCs) appointed by the developer of a building site were assigned with specific responsibilities for the design and construction of piles of buildings in the private sector. In his capacity as the Building Authority (BA), D of B assumed a monitoring role to ensure that APs, RSEs, RGBCs and RSCs discharged their statutory responsibilities and that the piles complied with safety standards. The monitoring mechanism had been in place since 1974 and so far no difficulties had been encountered in implementation. Neither were there serious problems with building safety. The Administration regularly reviewed the monitoring mechanism and considered this effective.

29. Referring to the 15 building sites which were under investigations, D of B clarified that not each and every of these sites had building problems or involved in corruption allegations. Allegations of corruption would be followed up in accordance with internal guidelines but these matters fell outside the purview of the Buildings Ordinance, Cap 123.

30. A member was concerned about malpractices in building sites in relation to piling works . He considered the present sampling rate of 1% of the total number of piles constructed for proof test inadequate and suggested increasing the rate to strengthen the deterrence effect.

31. In response, D of B stated that the sampling rate referred to the proof test conducted on completion of piles. In fact, concrete testing was conducted at various stages in the execution of piling works. Structural engineers of the Buildings Department (BD) would conduct periodic spot checks on concrete cube and steel reinforcement test reports, steel reinforcement mill certificates, pre-drill records and site investigation reports to ensure compliance with safety standard. They would also check these records against previous ones for any discrepancies. This system of cross-checking would make it difficult for contractors to engage in unscrupulous practices, such as by using rock cores taken from other building sites.

32. Members pointed out the much stringent control system administered by the Housing Department (HD) in respect of its housing projects. D of B explained that the role of HD and BD was different in building construction. HD assumed the role of an owner in its housing projects, whereas BD only took up a monitoring role over private building works to ensure compliance with building safety regulations. Nevertheless, both HD and BD would need to ensure that the buildings constructed were up to the standard required. As far as he knew, both departments had adopted similar working guidelines and building practices.

33. A member was concerned about the sub-contracting system in the building industry. He opined that given the several tiers of sub-contracting, it would be difficult to prevent subcontractors and site supervisors from committing bribes, resulting in the use of inferior building materials and/or substandard construction methods. He suggested increasing the frequency of spot checking of test records to enhance its intended deterrence effect. He further pointed out the need for BD to plug possible loopholes in the building guidelines to prevent the recurrence of serious foundation problems as reported in one building site.

34. D of B indicated that since the implementation of the Buildings (Amendment) Ordinance in 1997, there had been tighter control over supervision of construction sites to enhance safety. The Amendment Ordinance provided for an improved registration system for APs and RSEs and a new registration system for RGBCs and RSCs which took into account their qualification, experience and competence. The construction and piling works of the 15 building sites in question commenced before the Amendment Ordinance took effect. D of B further said that while it was necessary to introduce measures to prevent corruption in the building industry, this issue should be dealt with separately from the monitoring system administered by the BA. Site supervisions to prevent corruption and to ensure compliance of works with the building standard were different. How the two systems of site supervisions could be complemented to enhance the effectiveness of the monitoring mechanism should be further explored.

35. A member pointed out that the success of the monitoring mechanism hinged upon the self-regulation of the building professionals and the cooperation of the building industry. He opined that the supervision requirements for Government funded building projects were far more stringent than those of the private sector. In order to ensure site safety, he requested the Administration to review the adequacy of periodic inspection by registered structural engineers and to consider requiring the employment of resident engineers in each building site.

36. The Chairman enquired about the viability of using non-disruptive methods, such as laser in testing large diameter bored piles. D of B affirmed that laser had been applied in monitoring settlements to confirm the adequacy of large piling works. However, there remained the major difficulty of drilling through a large bored pile to verify the requested depth of the pile and the quality of the underlying rock. Presently, there was no available alternative technology to ensure a similarly accurate detection. Efforts were still being made to ascertain whether other simpler methods could be developed to achieve the same degree of reliability.

37. On a member's enquiry on the procedures for handling complaints of substandard flats, D of B explained that upon receipt of complaints about building safety, BD would conduct investigation on the structure of the building concerned. Documentation on the investigations would be made available to the public. However, the BD would need to seek the owners' consent for release of documents not belonged to the BD. Where the substandard features were minor building defects such as leakages which did not affect building safety or compliance with building regulations, this would be a matter for the owners and/or developers to make the necessary rectification works.

38. Members requested that a report on the investigation of the 15 building sites by the BD be provided to the Panel upon the completion of investigation by the Independent Commission Against Corruption.

VIII Any other business

39. Members noted that the post of Deputy Chairman of the Panel had been left vacant upon the Court's ruling that Dr TANG Siu-tong was not duly elected. Members agreed to defer the election of Deputy Chairman until after the by-election.

40. The meeting closed at 1:05 pm.

Legislative Council Secretariat
9 October 1998