Legislative Council

LC Paper No. CB(1)887/98-99
(These minutes have been seen
by the Administration)


LegCo Panel on Planning, Lands and Works

Minutes of meeting held on Thursday, 10 December 1998, at 10:45 am in Conference Room A of the Legislative Council Building

Members present :

Hon Edward HO Sing-tin, JP (Chairman)
Dr Hon TANG Siu-tong, JP (Deputy Chairman)
Hon HO Sai-chu, JP
Dr Hon Raymond HO Chung-tai, JP
Hon LEE Wing-tat
Hon James TO Kun-sun
Hon WONG Yung-kan
Hon LAU Kong-wah
Hon Andrew CHENG Kar-foo
Hon TAM Yiu-chung, JP

Members absent :

Hon Ronald ARCULLI, JP
Hon LAU Wong-fat, GBS, JP

Public officers attending:
Item V

Miss Emma LAU
Deputy Secretary for the Treasury

Mr James HERD
Principal Assistant Secretary for the Treasury (Works)

Item VI

Mr Wilson FUNG
Principal Assistant Secretary for Planning,
Environment and Lands (Planning)

Mr I J MacNaughton
Assistant Director (Task Force Black Spots)
Lands Department

Mr Wilson WONG
Principal Land Control Officer
Lands Department

Chief Town Planner/Central Enforcement and Prosecution, Planning Department

Item VII

Mr Danny TSUI
Principal Assistant Secretary for Planning, Environment and Lands (Environment)

Assistant Director/Projects and Development
Drainage Services Department

Chief Engineer/Consultants Management
Drainage Services Department

Mr Edmond HO
Principal Environmental Protection Officer
(Sewage Infrastructure Planning)
Environmental Protection Department
Clerk in attendance :
Miss Odelia LEUNG,
Chief Assistant Secretary (1)1
Staff in attendance :
Mrs Mary TANG,
Senior Assistant Secretary (1)2
I Election of Deputy Chairman
(LC Paper Nos. CB(1)581/98-99(01) and (02))

The Chairman invited nominations for deputy chairmanship. Dr TANG Siu-tong was nominated by Mr WONG Yung-kan and seconded by Mr HO Sai-chu. Dr TANG Siu-tong accepted the nomination.

2. There being no other nomination, Dr TANG Siu-tong was declared Deputy Chairman of the Panel.

II Confirmation of minutes of meeting
(LC Paper No. CB(1)568/98-99)

3. The minutes of meeting on 15 October 1998 were confirmed.

III Date of next meeting and items for discussion

4. Members agreed to discuss the following items proposed by the Administration at the next regular Panel meeting scheduled for 14 January 1999 -

  1. Tsuen Wan Bay Further Reclamation; and

  2. Wanchai Reclamation Phase II.
(Post-meeting note: At the request of the Administration and with the consent of the Chairman, Tsuen Wan Bay Further Reclamation was deferred for discussion and Land Titles Bill was included into the agenda for the meeting.)

IV Information papers issued since last meeting
(LC Paper No. CB(1)492/98-99)

5. Members noted the submission made by the Swire Properties entitled "Hong Kong Central Waterfront Development Concept Plan". The Panel agreed that the Swire Properties be invited to introduce the Plan when concrete proposals were made by the Administration regarding Central Reclamation.

V Capital Works Reserve Fund, block allocations for 1999-2000
(LC Paper No. CB(1)581/98-99(02))

6. At the invitation of the Chairman, the Deputy Secretary for the Treasury (DS for Tsy) briefly took members through the paper which set out the proposal to seek the recommendation of the Public Works Subcommittee (PWSC) to approve block allocations for 1999-2000 under the Capital Works Reserve Fund (CWRF), amend the ambit of Subhead 5101 CX, and create a new block allocation Subhead 7014 CX. DS for Tsy said that the proposed total allocation of $7,970 million for existing and proposed new block allocations under various Heads of CWRF for 1999-2000 represented a decrease of 11.15% against the allocation for 1998-99. This was attributed to a decrease of 48.98% of block allocations under Head 701 - Land Acquisition. Excluding the proposed block allocations under Heads 710 and 701, the block allocations under the other nine Heads for 1999-2000 were about $5,620 million, representing an increase of 9% compared with the 1998-99 allocation of about $5,100 million. DS for Tsy said that the block allocations for 1999-2000 covered about 4960 allocation items of which, more than 3,000 were existing items and about 1,500 were new items. A copy of the full list of allocation items would be deposited with the Legislative Council Secretariat for members' reference.

7. Regarding the proposed revisions to the existing ambit of block allocation subhead 5101CX, DS for Tsy said that the purpose was to specify categorically the coverage of minor slope works items each costing not more than $15 million under this subhead. As regards the proposal to create a new subhead 7014 CX - Rural Public Works (RPW) Programme, DS for Tsy said that this aimed to cater for the continuing demand for small scale rural infrastructural and improvement works. She affirmed that the Rural Committees and the Provisional District Boards concerned had been consulted. About 180 allocation items with estimated expenditure of $100 million for 1999-2000 were worked out in consultation with these bodies. Members noted that the Rural Public Works Programme would be placed under the responsibility of the Home Affairs Department.

8. The Chairman recalled that a river training project recently considered by PWSC was funded under the Rural Planning and Improvement Strategy (RPIS) Programme of Head 707 instead of under Head 704 for drainage works. He sought clarification on the criteria for including items in the RPIS programme. DS for Tsy explained that the scope of RPIS Programme was very wide. It covered minor works which aimed to improve infrastructure and the environment of rural areas, including minor urgent roadworks. These works were normally undertaken expeditiously after liaison with local residents and Provisional District Boards concerned. To maintain the momentum of the work and to respond to local demands, the Administration therefore proposed to provide funding for RPW programme under a new block allocation under Head 707. This approach would provide the necessary flexibility to the Director of Home Affairs to respond promptly to urgent needs and changes.

9. Explaining the decrease for block allocations under Head 701 - Land Acquisition, DS for Tsy said that this was due to a significant reduction in the Ex-gratia Compensation Rates for resumed land. These rates were revised in April and October each year to reflect changes in land prices. The Administration had also taken a more prudent approach in estimating the amount of land which could be resumed in the coming year.

10. As to whether the proposed allocations covered compensation for land resumed for the West Rail project, the Principal Assistant Secretary for the Treasury (Works) (PAS/Tsy) said that funding for land acquisition for the project was not included under Head 701. Land acquisition and other related costs arising from the implementation of the project would be borne by Kowloon-Canton Railway Corporation (KCRC). Dr TANG Siu-tong enquired whether the Administration or the KCRC determined the Ex-gratia Compensation Rates for land resumed for the project. The Administration agreed to confirm the funding of land resumption for West Rail and clarify Dr TANG's query.

(Post-meeting note: A supplementary information paper on the funding of land resumption for West Rail was provided by the Administration and circulated to members vide LC Paper No. CB(1)670/98-99)

11. Noting the current downtrend in project prices, Mr HO Sai-chu sought clarification on whether the proposed provisions for block allocations for 1999-2000 had taken this into account. DS for Tsy confirmed that the estimated expenditure was based on money-of-the-day prices and the current set of price adjustment factors had just been revised in September/October 1998. As most items were small projects which would be completed in a short time, the price variations were expected to be small.

12. Dr TANG Siu-tong said that financial proposals scrutinized by PWSC should be works related. He queried why the proposed block allocations included expenditure for computerization projects under Head 710. DS for Tsy said that technically, computerization projects did not fall within the purview of PWSC. However, over the years it had been an established practice to seek funding approval for all CWRF block allocations from the Finance Committee via PWSC in a single annual exercise so that Members could have a full picture of proposed allocations under all CWRF Heads. DS for Tsy further clarified that Head 710 provided funding for all. i.e. both works and non-works related, computerization projects. The Information Technology and Broadcasting Bureau was in charge of all computerization projects. The Administration would confirm whether the Information Technology and Broadcasting Panel had been or would be consulted on these projects.

(Post-meeting note: The Information Technology and Broadcasting Panel was consulted on 14 December 1998. Members of the Panel had no objection on the funding proposal.)

VI Progress report on cleaning up of environmental black spots in the New Territories
(LC Paper No. CB(1)581/98-99(04)

At the invitation of the Chairman, the Principal Assistant Secretary for Planning, Environment and Lands (Planning)(PAS/PEL) said that the purpose of the briefing was to report the progress of the Lands Department and the Planning Department in cleaning up environment black spots in the New Territories and to consult members on proposed infrastructure improvement works at Ping Che and Wa Shan which were identified as suitable for "Open Storage" and "Container Trailer/Tractor Park" uses. The estimated cost for the proposed works was around $122 million. As the infrastructure improvement works were related to the cleaning up of environmental black spots, funds would be charged to Task Force Black Spots(TFB) Expenditure Vote subject to the Finance Committee's approval. Charging of these projects under the TFB Expenditure Vote would obviate the need for including these projects into the Public Works Programme for funding allocation, hence expediting the implementation of these works. The Administration intended to seek the approval of the Finance Committee on 15 January 1999.

13. The Assistant Director of Lands (TFB) (AD of L) took members through the progress of TFB as detailed in the paper. He highlighted that of the 102 ha of black spots cleared or improved, owners/operators of the 88 private land sites mentioned in para 6(a) had ceased business, or demolished structures on site, or changed trade on their own after persuaded by the Administration. Of the two Short Term Tenancy (STT) sites in San Tin identified as suitable for container vehicle parking (re: para 11(a)), tender had been invited for letting out of one of the sites. Lease of the other site would be tendered in January 1999. AD of L said that the Inter-Departmental Working Group on Flytipping Control had been established to better co-ordinate Government efforts aimed at controlling and tackling illegal dumping of waste and to consider associated environmental issues such as the collection system for animal carcasses, the operating hours of public filling areas, etc. Following a slide presentation of the work of TFB, the Chief Town Planner/Central Enforcement and Prosecution, Planning Department (CTP/CEP) then briefed members on the work progress of the Central Enforcement and Prosecution Section (CEPS) of the Planning Department as set out in the paper. He highlighted the number of enforcement and prosecution actions taken by CEPS and the extent of land involved.

14. Responding to Mr James TO's query as to whether the Administration had experienced difficulties in taking enforcement and prosecution against unauthorized developments(UDs), CTP/CEP said that the enforcement actions of CEPS had on occasion been challenged judicially. He quoted a High Court appeal case in which the recipient of an Enforcement Notice appealed successfully against conviction. The judge ruled in that case that the recipient should be given a choice of discontinuing the use within three months or obtaining planning permission from the Town Planning Board. If the recipient opted to apply for planning permission rather than discontinuing the UD, it would result in considerable delay in enforcement proceedings as the processing of an application for permission to UD would take time to complete. CTP/CEP said that the Town Planning (Amendment) Bill to be introduced into LegCo would plug loopholes in this aspect. In response to Mr TO, the Administration agreed to provide the Panel with a copy of the High Court Judgment on the case concerned.

(Post meeting note: A copy of the High Court Judgment, the Queen Versus Tai Tong Lychee Valley Co. Ltd., was provided by the Administration and circulated to members vide LC Paper No. CB(1)653/98-99).

15. Referring to paragraph 28, Mr James TO sought information on the work of the special team which had been set up within CEPS to assess the planning status of the undertakings within Ha Tsuen and Lau Fau Shan Action Area. CTP/CEP said that the work of the special team was to differentiate between UDs and Existing Uses (EUs), i e, those uses which were tolerated under the Town Planning Ordinance. Regularization of EUs would be undertaken by TFB while enforcement and prosecution actions against UDs would be initiated by CEPS.

16. Noting the progress of enforcement and prosecution actions taken by CEPS as set out in Table 2 of the paper, the Chairman expressed concern about the low prosecution rate. Of 1,380 enforcement notices issued during the period from July 1997 to July 1998, only 59 cases were prosecuted. CTP/CEP clarified that the 1,380 enforcement notices related to 246 cases and prosecution actions were taken on 59 cases, representing about 25% of the total number.

17. Mr Andrew CHENG Kar-foo opined that the Administration had been playing conflicting roles in clearing environmental black spots on the one hand and encouraging open storage uses through regularization and re-zoning of land use on the other. In response, the Principal Land Control Officer, Lands Department (PLCO) explained that the work of TFB was to deal with environmental black spots classified as EUs which were tolerated under the Town Planning Ordinance. In cleaning up black spots at EU undertakings, TFB adopted "Polluter Pays" approach. Through persistent persuasion or warning, the landowners or operators were urged to carry out " In-situ Environmental Improvement Work" (IEIW) at their own expense to comply with the requirements proposed by TFB, including the need to ensure that flooding would not result from their operations. For those EUs where IEIW had been satisfactorily completed, TFB would offer Short Term Waivers (STW) to landowners to regularize their structures built on private land. Where necessary, STT would be granted to regularize unauthorized occupation of adjoining Government land.

18. Mr TAM Yiu-chung expressed concern about the short duration of STT/STW, given that operators of EU undertakings had to invest heavily on IEIW. AD of L advised that STT/STW were used to regularize EUs on a temporary basis only. They were generally granted for one year and thereafter quarterly subject to payment of rental and fees. CTP/CEP added that it was only those sites which obtained short-term approval under section 16 of the Town Planning Ordinance needed to apply to the Town Planning Board for renewal of section 16 approval. These applications were normally approved should there be no change in circumstances. The present arrangement allowed flexibility in land use planning and ensured that operators complied with the basic requirements imposed by the Town Planning Board. PLCO informed that some landowners/operators had requested through their trade associations for reduction of STW fees/STT rentals. The Administration was considering the issue. To save costs, some landowners/operators had resorted to clearing the superstructure on the EUs, thereby obviating the need to pay STW fees/STT rentals.

19. Mr Andrew CHENG Kar-foo was concerned about drainage problems caused by EU undertakings. PLCO said that before issuing or renewing STW/STT, TPB would consult relevant departments on possible improvements such as drainage works which should be carried out. The operation of EUs' undertakings would be closely monitored against non-compliance with requirements proposed. AD of L added that generally, the drainage works recommended to be carried out at EU sites were site specific. The engineer of the TFB would oversee these drainage works which were usually of a small scale. Large scale drainage projects remained the responsibility of the Drainage Services Department. PLCO advised that as a long term solution, the Administration would be implementing infrastructure improvements including widening of access roads and construction of new roads and drains in areas which were zoned for open storage and container related uses with a view to resolving the drainage and transport problems associated with these uses.

20. On the re-zoning of agricultural land at Ping Che and Wa Shan for "Open Storage" and "Container Trailer/Tractor Park" uses, PLCO advised that these two pieces of land were conveniently located near Man Kam To and Sha Tau Kok and would be suitable for open storage and container industry related uses. In order to encourage early utilization of these two sites for the zoned uses, the Administration proposed to carry out infrastructure improvement on these sites. Mr WONG Yung-kan sought information on land resumption for the proposed works. PLCO advised that in order to provide improved access to these sites, there was a need to resume land for the widening of existing substandard access roads. Although 70% of the area of the two sites was private land, only a small amount of land would need to be resumed and less than 20 families who were farming in the area would be affected. The Housing Department and the Agriculture and Fisheries Department would be tasked with the responsibility for rehousing and compensation for these families. The project would be gazetted under the Roads (Works, Use and Compensation) Ordinance and there would be chance for the public to raise objection during the consultation period.

21. Dr TANG Siu-tong queried whether it was appropriate for the Administration to resume land to make way for private developments and for the conduct of container related businesses which were commercial in nature. PAS/PEL(P) clarified that the purpose of resuming land at Ping Che and Wa Shan was to provide the necessary infrastructure, in particular roads. The resumption procedures would be in accordance with the Roads (Works, Use and Compensation) Ordinance. PLCO added that presently, about 30% of the site at Ping Che had been approved for container-related or open storage activities under section 16 of the Town Planning Ordinance. These activities had given rise to traffic and drainage problems which had to be dealt with. The main purpose of land resumption was to provide land for upgrading of local infrastructure and improving the existing environment of the surrounding area, rather than merely to facilitate container-related open storage businesses, which would be an incidental benefit.

22. Members pointed out that owners concerned might wish to continue farming and might not be interested in converting agricultural land to open storage uses. PLCO said that land uses depended on market demand. Upon completion of road and drainage improvement works, it was expected that more landowners of would wish to convert the land from agricultural to open storage or container related uses as a result of market demand, and would apply to the Lands Department for approval.

23. As to whether the Provisional District Boards concerned and local residents had been consulted on the proposed project, PLCO advised that the Administration had consulted the North District Provisional District Board. To allay their concern about exacerbation of flooding problems which might result from the roadworks and further opening up of land for open storage use at Ping Che, the Administration was prepared to undertake drainage improvement works in the area, subject to funding approval by the Finance Committee.

24. Mr LEE Wing-tat queried whether it was justified to spend $122 million to provide infrastructural improvements to the new initiated sites at Ping Che and Wa Shan given the slowing down of the container business. He opined that the demand for land for container back-up and open storage uses purposes was not as acute as before since some EU undertakings had been regularized through STT/STW. His view was shared by the Chairman who pointed out that the vast sum of money spent would only service two initiated sites with a total usable area of 26.5 ha. This amount of land was insignificant as compared with the 374 ha of land reserved on the rural New Territories Outline Zoning Plans for open storage and container back-up uses and the 192 ha of zoned industrial land which could be used for workshops and related uses, according to the information in paragraph 29 of the paper. The Chairman further said that some landowners might be unwilling to give up farming activities despite the rezoning of the land and the improvements in infrastructure.

25. In response, PAS/PEL said that notwithstanding the continued efforts of the Administration, some 860 UDs occupying a total area of 260 ha still existed and had to be dealt with. TFB had been introducing incentives to encourage operators of UDs to move their operations to areas which were zoned for open storage and container related uses. The provision of infrastructure which would provide easy access to the new initiated sites at Ping Che and Wa Shan was one of the measures to move UDs to properly planned locations.

26. Mr LEE Wing-tat said that the provision of infrastructure improvements at the two new initiated sites would be controversial. Members of the public would query why improvements were made only to these two sites but not other sites. PAS/PEL explained that there was already a high demand for container related uses for the two sites. Since about 30% of the sites have been used for open storage and container related activities currently, the provision of infrastructure improvement would maximize the use of the sites. Dr TANG Siu-tong was unconvinced of the Administration's explanations and remained of the view that public money should not be spent to further private interests. PAS/PEL said that the Administration noted members' concerns and would further address these concerns in the paper to the Finance Committee.

27. As regards the provision of multi-storey parking for container vehicles, PAS/PEL said that the Administration would assess the market demand before taking forward this proposal. The use of multi-storey buildings for container parking would maximize the use of new initiative sites. So far, no objection had been received from the container trade on the use of new initiative sites for multi-storey parking for container vehicles.

VII Sewerage works in the North District
(LC Paper No. CB(1)581/98-99(05))

28. The Chairman informed that this item was put on the agenda for discussion as members were concerned about the progress of sewerage works in the North District when examining the funding application for North District Sewerage Stage I phase 1A works at the PWSC meeting on 11 November 1998.

29. The Principal Assistant Secretary for Planning, Environment and Lands (Environment) (PAS/PEL(E)) briefly reported the progress of the sewerage works in the North District. He said that the investigation study on the sewerage works was completed in 1997. The works would involve the construction of around 13.7 km of trunk sewers, village sewerage to 74 villages, 32 pumping stations, and seven village type sewage treatment works. The total construction cost was $700 million and would be spent over the project period of seven years from 1999 to 2005. The Administration expected that upon completion of the sewerage connection works, there would be a significant improvement in the water quality in Deep Bay, Starling Inlet and Mirs Bay.

30. Responding to Mr WONG Yung-kan's enquiry on whether the project would help alleviate the flooding problem at Sha Tau Kok, the Assistant Director/Projects and Development, Drainage Services Department (AD/DSD) advised that the project concerned the collection of sewage, not storm water. Flooding in the North District was being dealt with through storm water drainage works and river training projects.

31. In response to Dr TANG Siu-tong's question about the level of treatment for the sewage collected, the Chief Engineer/Consultants Management, Drainage Services Department (CE/DSD) said that the sewage collected in areas covered by Stage I would undergo secondary treatment at Shek Wu Hui Sewage Treatment Works. It was expected by 2001, treatment of the sewage collected at Shek Wu Hui Sewage Treatment Works would be upgraded to include nitrogen removal and disinfection.

32. Dr Raymond HO was concerned whether the capacity of the proposed sewerage facilities, which was based on the North District Sewerage Master Plan completed in 1994, would be sufficient to serve the growing population in the North District. His concern was shared by the Chairman who pointed out that according to the outcome of the Territorial Development Strategy Review which was released in 1996, the number of population had been grossly under-estimated in 1994. Hong Kong was expected to have a population size of 8.1 million in 2011, instead of 6.5 million as previously estimated.

33. CE/DSD informed that the design of the sewerage facilities was intended to serve a population of 270,000 in the North District in 2011. Although the sewerage plan was based on the findings of the North District Sewerage Master Plan Study completed in 1994, subsequent designs would update the findings and provide reserve capacity to allow for future expansion. Before the finalization of the detailed design for Stage 1 Phase 1A, the Drainage Services Department had taken into account the latest population estimates available. As this part of the project covered mainly rural areas, the growth of population was expected to be small.

34. The Principal Environmental Protection Officer added that the latest population estimates in North District as provided by the Planning Department were about 400,000 in 2016. The Administration was reviewing the Sewerage Master Plans for 16 districts by phases. Each phase would cover four to five districts. The review on North District Sewerage Master Plan would start in 1999. Based on the results of the review, the Administration would make necessary planning adjustments to the Plans.

35. Members stressed the need for the design of the sewerage facilities to cater for population growth and changes in population distribution because further upgrading of completed sewerage works would both be costly and causing inconvenience to the public during construction. The Administration agreed to clarify whether the design of sewerage facilities was based on the population projection in 1994 or 1996.Admin.

(Post-meeting note: the Administration's written response was circulated to members vide LC Paper No. CB(1)757/98-99.)

VI Any other business

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

Legislative Council Secretariat
8 February 1999