Legislative Council

LC Paper No. CB(1)684/98-99
(These minutes have been
seen by the Administration)


LegCo Panel on Planning, Lands and Works

Minutes of meeting held on Thursday, 12 November 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 Ronald ARCULLI, JP
Hon James TO Kun-sun
Hon LAU Kong-wah
Hon LAU Wong-fat, GBS, JP
Dr Hon TANG Siu-tong, JP

Members absent :

Hon LEE Wing-tat
Hon WONG Yung-kan
Hon Andrew CHENG Kar-foo
Hon TAM Yiu-chung, JP

Public officers attending:

Item IV

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

Mrs Alice LEE
Acting Land Registrar, Land Registry

Ms Barbara MAK
Business Manager, Land Registry

Mrs Jenny WONG
Deputy Registry Manager, Land Registry

Mr Isaac YUEN
Assistant Registry Manager, Land Registry

Item V

Mrs Carrie YAU
Director of Administration
Chief Secretary for Administration's Office

Principal Executive Officer
Chief Secretary for Administration's Office

Mr Albert LAI
Government Property Administrator
Government Property Agency

Mr Tony TOY
Project Director
Architectural Services Department

Technical Secretary
Architectural Services Department
Clerk in attendance :
Miss Odelia LEUNG,
Chief Assistant Secretary (1)1
Staff in attendance :
Mrs Mary TANG,
Senior Assistant Secretary (1)2
The Chairman informed that Dr Hon TANG Siu-tong had joined the Panel. The membership of the Panel had increased from 11 to 12 and four members were needed to form a quorum.

I Confirmation of minutes of meeting
(LC Paper No. CB(1)372/98-99)

The minutes of meeting on 17 September 1998 were confirmed.

II Date of next meeting and items for discussion

3. Members agreed to elect a Deputy Chairman of the Panel at the next regular meeting on 10 December 1998 and discuss the following items proposed by the Administration -

  1. Capital Works Reserve Fund, block allocation 1999-2000; and

  2. Progress report on cleaning up of environmental black spots in the New Territories.
4.Hon LAU Kong-wah said that the Public Works Subcommittee had just considered a funding application relating to sewerage works in the North District. He suggested and the Panel agreed to discuss the overall plan for sewerage works in the North District at the next meeting.

III Information papers issued since last meeting

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

IV Central Registration System
(LC Paper No. CB(1)279/98-99)

6. At the invitation of the Chairman, the Deputy Registry Manager, Land Registry introduced with the use of a computer connector the proposed Central Registration System (CRS) to be implemented by the Land Registry as detailed in the paper.

7. Noting that the central registration office would be located in Hong Kong Island, a member enquired whether a similar one would be set up in Kowloon. The Acting Land Registrar, Land Registry (LR) (Atg) explained that under the new CRS, the land registration function at the existing nine registration districts would be amalgamated into one central registration office at the Land Registry's headquarters in Queensway Government Offices. This arrangement would facilitate the registration of documents since over 90% of legal conveyancing firms were located in the urban area. Postal deliveries would continue to be accepted.

8. On the reasons for centralizing registration services, LR (Atg) explained that documents were registered on a priority basis in each of the nine registration offices. Under CRS, there would be a single queue of registration which would make tracking of the registration process easier. Furthermore, the number of applications for registration of documents in each office varied from time to time. It would be difficult to make speedy deployment of staff to tie in with the workloads. With the implementation of. a centralized registration system, staff could be deployed more efficiently and effectively. Principal Assistant Secretary for Planning, Environment and Lands (PAS/PEL) said that the CRS would lower the operating costs of legal conveyancing firms immediately and enhance efficiency of the Land Registry which would be reflected in the level of fees payable by users of the service in the long run.

9. Members noted that to implement CRS, the Land Registry would need to develop a new and integrated computer system at a cost of $118 million. The Land Registry intended to recover this cost in seven years' time from annual savings of about $20 million upon implementation of the system. Members were concerned about the implication of CRS on the charges levied on users of the services provided by the Land Registry. In response, the Business Manager, Land Registry explained that the cost of developing the new computer system would be absorbed by the reserve of the Land Registry which had been operating on the mode of a trading fund. The Land Registry Trading Fund operated on the self financing principle with an annual target return of 10% of the average net fixed assets. The fees charged by the Land Registry were reviewed annually taking into account costs, expenditure, inflation and future service plans. The fees for search of land records and documents had not been revised since 1995 and those for registration of documents since 1996. The Land Registry anticipated that it would not be necessary to finance the CRS proposal by increasing existing fees. However, with the economic downturn, applications for registration of documents had decreased considerably. The Land Registry was looking at ways to achieve savings.

10. On the possibility of registering a document by electronic mail and uploading the land records on the Internet, LR (Atg) said that for the time being, the Administration intended to implement CRS which would greatly improve the registration services. Since registration of documents and searching of land records were chargeable services, technical issues would have to be resolved before making available these services through electronic means. PAS/PEL noted members' view and said that to provide registration and searching services through electronic means would be the right way forward.

11. As regards the registration process, LR (Atg) advised that the information on the registered document would be made accessible to the public the day following lodgement of the document with the Registry. The complete registration process, i.e. from the lodging of documents to be registered with the Land Registry to the return of documents to the conveyancing firms, would take about 20 days. All entries to the land records would be double-checked, first by computer and then manually. The registration record kept by the Land Registry was based on the information shown in the registered documents. The conveyancing firms would be responsible for clarifying any incorrect information contained in the registered documents in order that the registration record could be so rectified. Property owners could check the accuracy of the information registered through search of land records.

12. In response to a member, LR (Atg) confirmed that a briefing for the New Territories Provisional District Boards had been held earlier and that for the Heung Yee Kuk would be held in the afternoon of 17 November 1998.

V New Central Government Complex at the Tamar Basin Reclamation Site
(LC Paper No. CB(1)457/98-99(01))

13. An extract of draft Central District (Extension) Outline Zoning Plan and an enlarged photo of Tamar Basin Reclamation site provided by the Administration were tabled at the meeting and circulated to members vide LC Paper No. CB(1)480/98-99.

14. At the invitation of the Chairman, the Director of Administration (D of A) briefed members on the planning parameters, scope and programme of the New Central Government Complex (CGC) at the Tamar Basin Reclamation Site as outlined in the information paper. D of A highlighted that the proposed CGC would fully utilize the Tamar Reclamation Site of 2.5 hectares. The first phase of the development would provide a net floor area of 175,000 square metres, of which 10% would be used for community-oriented-facilities. D of A stressed that the proposed CGC, which would serve as the Government Headquarters for the next 50 years, had taken into account future growth in demand for Government office spaces.

15. Members considered the information contained in the information paper grossly inadequate. Important details, such as areas of inadequacies of the existing Central Government Offices, justifications for building a large Government complex, estimated value of the Tamar Basin Reclamation site, future use of the site vacated by relocation of the Central Government Offices and Murray Building, and schedule of accommodation in the proposed CGC, were all lacking. D of A explained that the purpose of the paper was to provide a general outline of the scope and facilities of the CGC and additional information on the project would be provided having regard to members' views and concerns. The Chairman was of the view that the Administration should seek the support of the Legislative Council on the CGC project first before making any funding application for commissioning a consultancy study. Dr Hon TANG Siu-tong expressed reservations on using the site for building a Government complex given its potential high value. He said that bureaux were presently centralized in the Central Government Offices and Murray Building which had formed a political centre. He considered such a physical arrangement satisfactory.

Need for a CGC

16. D of A said that the total floor area of the Central Government Offices and Murray Building, as well as bureaux and related offices located outside these buildings, was about 110,000 square metres. Owing to the acute shortage of office spaces, staff had been working in very cramped conditions. A new government complex with larger spaces was needed to improve the working conditions. It was difficult to find a centrally located site large enough to reprovision all bureaux now located in the Central Government Offices and Murray Building as well as related offices and agencies which provided support services to or had an operational need to be located near to the Government Secretariat. The new complex should also have sufficient spaces to cater for future growth in the civil service establishment which had increased 62% in the past 20 years. After considering different options, the Administration concluded that the Tamar Basin Reclamation Site was an ideal place for building a CGC. D of A said that it would be difficult to estimate the value of the site which would change depending on the market situation.

17. Hon LAU Kong-wah queried the need for a large CGC with a net floor area of 175,000 square metres. Hon James TO Kun-sun, however, was of the view that the Administration should maximize the plot ratio of the Tamar Basin Reclamation Site to avoid possible problems or inconvenience caused by the need to extend the complex in future. Mr TO was of the view that the present offices of Bureau Secretaries were under-provisioned and should be upgraded to be commensurated with their rank.

18. D of A explained that taking into account the existing shortfall of office spaces and ancillary facilities in bureaux and related offices, the net floor area of the proposed CGC would increase the existing office spaces by about 50%. The Principal Executive Officer, Chief Secretary for Administration's Office supplemented that the proposed project would provide spaces for community-oriented facilities including a Government Information and Resources Centre to facilitate dissemination of Government information and interaction with the public, and landscaped spaces for public use and for holding commemorative or ceremonial activities. In addition, it would also provide ancillary facilities such as Conference Halls, staff facilities and carparking spaces. In response to a member, D of A clarified that the outcome on the proposed Central and Wanchai Reclamation project would not affect the CGC project.

19. Members requested and the Administration agreed to provide a comparison on the schedule of accommodation in respect of bureaux and related offices in existing premises and in the proposed CGC.

Construction costs

20. D of A advised that the construction costs of the proposed CGC would be around $14,600 per square metre which were comparable to other government offices. For example, the construction costs of the new North Point Government Offices were about $13,000 per square metre, whereas those for the Cheung Sha Wan Government Offices were about $14,000 per square metre.

21. The Project Director, Architectural Services Department(PD/ASD) supplemented that the estimated construction costs of the CGC were worked out on the basis of a net floor area of 175,000 square metres. These costs did not include piling works, ancillary services and substructure. The building costs and building services costs for the whole project would be around $4.5 billion. Together with the costs for piling , site formation works, ancillary services and substructure, the total construction costs would be around $6 billion. Members noted that the gross floor area of the CGC would be 250,000 square metres.

Design competition

22. The Chairman said that he had reservations over the proposed holding of an international competition for the design of the CGC. The local architectural profession did not see the need to admit overseas architectural firms to take part in the competition. Such an arrangement would imply a doubt on the professional standards and competence of local architects. In this connection, the Chairman reiterated his disappointment over the absence of local participation in the design of the Chek Lap Kok Airport. The Chairman's view was shared by other members who stressed the need for recognition of local expertise. Hon James TO Kun-sun opined that since top level officials would be working in the proposed CGC, the Administration should seriously consider the question of security if overseas firms were allowed to participate in the construction of the CGC.

23. In response, D of A said that the purpose of holding a design competition was to encourage participation and provide a wider choice in the selection of the design for the CGC. It was hoped that more innovative ideas would come along in the competition to promote Hong Kong's uniqueness and international standing. She assured members that the Administration did not have the slightest intention of discrediting the professional competence of local architects.

24. Noting that the competition would cost over $60 million, members sought information on the breakdown and enquired whether the design of the CGC could be done in-house. D of A and PD/ASD advised that the Administration had considered the option of using in-house resources to design the CGC. Since the Architectural Services Department had not been allocated with resources for a project of such a large scale, the department would have to look for additional resources should it be tasked with the job. After reviewing the options, the Administration considered that an open design competition would be a better option from the perspective of both publicity and creativity. PD/ASD further said that it was a traditional practice to use 1% of the construction costs of a project to prepare the project brief and schematic plan. The Administration therefore intended to cap the costs of producing the schematic plan for this project at 1% of the construction costs which would include the design competition expenses. These expenses would include fees for specialized consultants to draft a defined competition brief to ensure a level playing field administering the competition as well as appropriate remunerations for competitors.

25. Members in general had reservations over the high cost of the design competition. Hon James TO Kun-sun was of the view that remunerations for the winner could be nominal as honour was more at stake in a competition. The Chairman however pointed out the need for reasonable remunerations for competitors as they had to incur substantial resources in coming up with a design for competition. Dr Hon Raymond HO Chung-tai suggested that the expenses of the design competition could be reduced if the competition was focused on the design of the CGC, but not its functions.

26. On the composition of the adjudication panel for the competition, D of A said that a decision had yet to be made. The present thinking was to leave the final decision on the design of the CGC to the adjudication panel which would comprise client users of the complex. The Chairman said that the composition of the adjudication panel would have a great bearing on the outcome of the competition. The Administration had to firm up all these details before submitting a funding proposal to the Public Works Subcommittee for consideration. D of A agreed to provide detailed information to address members' concern when seeking funding approval for the proposed CGC.

VI Any other business

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

Legislative Council Secretariat
24 December 1998