Legislative Council

LC Paper No. CB(1)568/98-99
(These minutes have been
seen by the Administration)


LegCo Panel on Planning, Lands and Works
Minutes of meeting held on Thursday, 15 October 1998, at 10:00 am in the Chamber 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 Andrew CHENG Kar-foo
Hon TAM Yiu-chung, JP

Non-Panel members attending:

Prof Hon NG Ching-fai
Hon Christine LOH
Hon CHAN Yuen-han
Hon CHOY So-yuk

Members absent :

Hon LAU Wong-fat, GBS, JP

Public officers attending:

Item I

Mr Bowen LEUNG, JP
Secretary for Planning,
Environment and Lands

Director of Buildings

Director of Lands

Director of Planning

Item II

Mr KWONG Hon-sang, JP
Secretary for Works

Mr Bernard M T LAM, JP
Director of Civil Engineering

Mr HU Man-shiu, JP
Director of Water Supplies

Director of Drainage Services

Mrs Stella HUNG, JP
Deputy Secretary for Works
(Programme and Resources)

Mr CHAN Wing-sang, JP
Deputy Secretary for Works
(Works Policy)

Item VI

Mr Kevin HO, JP
Deputy Secretary for Transport
(Planning and Management)

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

Mr CHEUNG Tai-yan, JP
Project Manager
Hong Kong Island and Islands
Development Office
Clerk in attendance :
Miss Odelia LEUNG,
Chief Assistant Secretary (1)1
Staff in attendance :
Ms Pauline NG,
Assistant Secretary General 1

Mrs Mary TANG,
Senior Assistant Secretary (1)2

I Policy briefing by Secretary for Planning, Environment and Lands on the Chief Executive's Policy Address 1998

At the invitation of the Chairman, the Secretary for Planning, Environment and Lands (SPEL) briefed members on the policy objective and key policy areas relating to planning and lands in the year ahead. He said that the policy objective was to develop Hong Kong into an advanced and well designed city that could meet long-term social and economic needs through efficient planning, adequate land supply, high building standards and timely urban renewal. Of various programme areas, SPEL highlighted that the Administration was pushing ahead with planning and land use studies for North West and North East New Territories, Hong Kong Island South and Lamma Island. These studies, which were scheduled for completion by the year 2000, would provide the planning framework for housing a target population of 380,000. In addition, the Administration planned to start the Metroplan Review Stage II before mid-1999. The Town Planning Bill to overhaul the plan-making process would be introduced into the Legislative Council in early 1999.


2.As regards land disposal, SPEL advised that the Administration would decide early next year as to whether or not to resume land sales. Despite the current suspension of land sales, the Administration would continue to form and service land to create a land bank to meet the needs of the community and provide the foundation for a stable market.

3. Hon LAU Kong-wah criticized the Administration for having provided inconsistent information on land sales in public. He recalled that the Director of Lands (D of L) reiterated the Administration's adherence to the Land Disposal Programme hours before the announcement was made by the Chief Executive on the moratorium of land sales. He stressed the need for more coordination among different levels of the Administration when making announcements on important decisions.

4. SPEL disagreed that the Administration had ever provided inconsistent information on land sales. He pointed out that the decision of temporarily suspending land sales was made by the top level of the Administration. The D of L, being the head of an executive department, was not in a position to disclose the suspension before a decision had been made. Until and unless an instruction was received on suspension of land sales, the announced Land Disposal Programme would remain valid.

5. Hon LEE Wing-tat was concerned about the impact of suspension of land sales on public revenue and employment opportunities of the building professions. He said that some developers were aggrieved at the suspension which had deprived them of the chance of acquiring land in a bearish property market. Mr LEE sought information on the factors to be taken into consideration by the Administration in deciding whether or not to lift the moratorium on land sales.

6. In response, SPEL said that in deciding whether or not to resume land sales, the Administration would consider the financial situation; the property market conditions; the attitude of banking institutions to property lending; the readiness of developers to participate in land sales; public sentiment towards the property market; and impact of further moratorium on building professions and public revenue. SPEL stressed that the primary objective of suspending land sales was to ensure stability in the property market.

7. Mr LEE said that he supported resumption of land sales in April 1999 and called on the Administration to introduce new measures such as setting a reserve price for the land sold by tendering, and allowing the successful bidder to pay land premium by instalments. Hon LAU Kong-wah suggested that the Administration should consider new means of land disposal.

8. SPEL said that the Administration had consulted the banking sector on the suggestion of paying land premium by instalments on the part of developers. The bank response, however, was not encouraging. The banking sector did not consider that the proposal would help much in restoring confidence in the property market. Banking institutions would prefer lending to developers by lump sum rather than by instalments. SPEL further said that for many years, land had been disposed of through public auctions, tendering and private grants. Private land grants would normally be given to non-profit making organization. As of date, the Administration had not received any proposals from members of the public on alternative ways of land disposal.

9. Hon Ronald ARCULLI pointed out that the Real Estate Developers Association of Hong Kong had requested the suspension of land sales for a further two years after March 1999. He was of the view that the Administration should further explore the suggestion of allowing payment of land premium by instalments as it would encourage more developers to take part in land sales, thereby stabilising the property market. He suggested that developers might take the initiative of writing to the Lands Department by indicating an interest in a piece of land at a certain level of land premium. The specified land could then be included in the land disposal programmes and the Administration could make reference to the land premium proposed by the developer in setting the reserve price for the land.

10. SPEL thanked the member for his suggestion. He said that the Administration would consider it but stressed that any changes in the arrangement for land sales must be supported by developers.

11. Hon TAM Yiu-chung suggested including a condition in the terms of land sales requiring developers to make provision for elderly housing in the development on the land. SPEL responded that developers had reservations over this proposal on the grounds that the value of their properties might be adversely affected. Instead of relying on private developers to provide housing for the elderly, the Administration considered it a better approach to designate land for the purpose. The Planning Department and the Lands Department were working closely with the Social Welfare Department on the provision of more hostels for the elderly.

12. On the provision of reclaimed land, SPEL indicated that 40 hectares of reclaimed or formed land would be provided in 1999-2000. Of these, nine hectares came from reclaimed sites in Tung Chung while 31 hectares of formed land would be made available from the north apron area of Kai Tak airport. Responding to a member's concern on the availability of land for the development of a Disneyland theme park, SPEL said that he did not envisage any major difficulty with the proposal from the planning and land perspective.

Development approval process

13. The Chairman said that irrespective of whether the Administration would resume land sales next year, the development approval process should be simplified and expedited. He enquiried about the progress of review of the process. SPEL advised that the review had been completed. A working group comprising representatives from the Administration, professional institutes and concerned parties had been formed to assess the measures adopted last year to improve the process.

Small House Policy

14. Referring to an enquiry on the Government's stance on Small House Policy, SPEL replied that a working group had been established to review the Small House Policy and one of the options under consideration was to replace it. The outcome of the review would be released for public consultation in 1999.

15. On the criteria for processing small house applications, in particular in relation to fung shui considerations, D of L explained that under the established procedures for processing small house applications, the District Lands Office would post notices in the village concerned to see if there was any objection. Some of the reasons for objecting an application did relate to fung shui. D of L stressed that objections on fung shui grounds would not be accepted automatically. Land executives would consult the villagers concerned with a view to resolving the problem. This processing system had been in use for a long time and was generally considered acceptable.

Urban renewal

16. On urban renewal, SPEL indicated that the Administration was finalizing its proposals on the Urban Renewal Strategy and drawing up the suggested terms of reference, powers and operational guidelines for the Urban Renewal Authority. The Urban Renewal Authority Bill was expected to be introduced in early 1999. The recent downturn of the property market had frustrated urban redevelopment. The Urban Renewal Authority would need to take a more strategic and comprehensive approach to ensure the financial viability of urban redevelopment.

17. Hon James TO Kun-sun called on the Administration to finance urban renewal projects, which would otherwise be non-viable under the present market situation. SPEL concurred that the existing arrangement under which urban renewal projects were undertaken by the Land Development Corporation and private developers might not be workable under the present circumstances. He said that the Government was reviewing its role on urban renewal, in particular on the need to finance such projects.

Building safety

18. To encourage proper upkeep of aged buildings, SPEL advised that the Administration had launched the Building Safety Improvement Loan Scheme (the Loan Scheme) to help building owners to undertake inspections and repair works. Meanwhile, the Buildings Department would step up enforcement action on unsafe old buildings and encourage owners to join the Building Safety Inspection Scheme(BSIS).

19. On Hon LEE Wing-tat's concern about the poor response to the Loan Scheme, the Director of Building (D of B) clarified that since the introduction of the Loan Scheme in August 1998, about 200 enquiries and 14 applications had been received. The reason for the low application rate was that owners were not clear about the eligibility for the Loan Scheme, in particular about the pre-requisite condition to participate in the voluntary BSIS. The Administration would step up publicity in this respect. Following this up, Mr LEE opined that there might be difficulties in forming owners' corporations in aged buildings. He considered that the Home Affairs Department could be of assistance in this regard. D of B said that the Buildings Department was working closely with the Home Affairs Department in encouraging owners of aged buildings to form owners' corporations in managing and financing the maintenance and improvement works of their buildings.

20. On the clearance of unauthorized rooftop structures and dangerous appendages, D of B advised that the clearance programme had been stepped up. With the recent increase in manpower, the Buildings Department aimed at dealing with high risk unauthorized rooftop structures on 100 buildings and removing 2,000 dangerous appendages annually. The progress of the clearance programme would depend on the availability of in-house resources and re-housing arrangements.

Bonus plot ratio

21. A member sought clarification on the criteria for granting bonus plot ratio. He said that in a recent redevelopment case in Central, an application for bonus plot ratio in return for the provision of an underground access to facilitate Mass Transit Railway passengers had been turned down.

22. D of B explained that there were clearly established criteria in approving bonus plot ratio. The guiding principle was that the access to be provided in the private development plan must be of public interest and facilitate traffic movement. SPEL added that the Administration had to balance the interest of the private developer and the public in considering developer's application for bonus plot ratio. Normally, bonus plot ratio would only be awarded to buildings where public access was made available on the ground or upper floors on a 24-hour basis.

II Briefing by Secretary for Works on the Chief Executive's Policy Address 1998

23. At the invitation of the Chairman, the Secretary for Works (S for W) briefed members on the policy objectives and key programme areas of the Works Bureau as detailed in the booklets entitled "Public Works Programme", "Slope Safety" and "Water Supply" which had been distributed to members. S for W highlighted the efforts in promoting exchange of public works technology and expertise between Hong Kong and the Mainland. An exchange seminar was held in Tsing Dao early this year. In conjunction with the Trade Development Council, visits to the Mainland were arranged to explore the opportunities for local building professions to participate in Mainland works projects. The Administration would continue to organize these activities which were welcomed and found to be useful by the building professions.

Public works programme

24. In view of the high unemployment rate, Hon HO Sai-chu called on the Administration to enhance local participation in public works projects. S for W said that the percentage of local building professions engaged in public works projects had all along been high. Local experience had always been a factor considered by the Administration in awarding public works contract. The Administration would review the existing assessment criteria to see how these could be further improved. The review would also examine the issue of requiring employment of a certain percentage of monthly paid construction workers in public works projects. Moreover, to assist local small firms in bidding for public works projects, the Administration was considering splitting large scale projects into smaller ones. The Administration noted the Chairman's disappointment on limited local participation in the architectural design of the Chek Lap Kok Airport.

25. Some members were concerned about the transfer of specialized construction technology possessed by foreign companies to local building professions and enquired about the feasibility of stipulating such a requirement in major public works contracts. S for W stated that it was not practical to include in each and every works contract the requirement for technology transfer given the difficulty in defining the technology to be transferred. In fact, construction technology and expertise had been transferred from foreign firms to local building professions through major public works over the years, notably in the construction of bridges and tunnels. The question was how to transfer the expertise acquired by the Government in public works to the private sector. In this connection, S for W informed that the Administration had enlisted the participation of local and Mainland universities on monitoring the effects of wind on Tsing Ma Bridge. Such an arrangement would facilitate transfer of technology and expertise. Members pointed out that apart from the Government, other public bodies such as the two Railway Corporations and the Airport Authority should also take the lead in promoting the transfer of technology in their infrastructural projects. S for W agreed to discuss the matter with the organizations concerned.Admin

26. Given the present tight lending situation, a member sought information on any measures contemplated by the Administration to assist contractors in carrying out public works contracts. S for W said that whilst it was not the Administration's policy to assist a particular trade in financial terms, to improve the cash flow of contractors, the Works Bureau was discussing with the relevant departments the possibility of shortening the existing payment period of 42 days after the completion of works.

Slope safety

27. Referring to paragraph 87 of the Chief Executive's Policy Address 1998 on safer slopes, a member sought clarification on the techniques and methods of investigation and risk assessment used in Hong Kong which were said to be second to none in the world. S for W said that given its geographical conditions, Hong Kong was already in a leading position in using state-of-the-art technology on slope investigations and maintenance. Under the sponsorship of the Hong Kong Jockey Club, the University of Hong Kong had set up a research centre on geotechnical studies which maintained close liaison with the Mainland counterparts in developing and upgrading geotechnology.

28. Elaborating on the targets in pursuing the policy objectives on slope safety, the Director of Civil Engineering (DCE) said that the 5-year Accelerated Landslip Preventive Measures (LPM) Programme was based on a priority classification system which was developed and used by Geotechnical Engineering Office to accord appropriate order of priority for slope investigation and upgrading. On the completion of the LPG Programme by the year 2000, the risk for slope failure arising from the old substandard man-made slopes would be reduced to less than 50% of the risk that existed in 1977. Such risk would be further reduced to less than 25% of the risk level in 1977 by the year 2010. With the clearance of squatter areas adjacent to dangerous slopes and the upgrading and maintenance of pre-1977 man-made slopes, the risk and consequence of slope failure had been significantly reduced. Given its abundance of slopes, its scarcity of land and its high population density, Hong Kong had been performing very well and even excelled other developed countries in the maintenance of slope safety.

29. Members considered the target which was set at the basis of a percentage of the risk level that existed in 1977 difficult to comprehend. They called on the Administration to devise a simple system which could be easily understood by the general public. In response, DCE said that there was no other internationally accepted means to quantify landslide risk. He informed that an Australian geotechnical expert had defined landslide risk in terms of annual fatality rate per population of 6 million. Using this method of calculation, the annual fatality rate due to slope failure was less than 5 in Hong Kong in the past few years. This rate compared well with other countries. The Administration noted members' concern about the need to give priority in maintaining high risk slopes, namely slopes adjacent to busy areas with heavy pedestrian or vehicular flow.

Water supply

30. On the measures to ensure the quality of water supplied to consumers, the Director of Water Supplies (DWS) advised that the quality of Dongjiang water was closely monitored once it entered the reception point at Muk Wu. If the quality fell below a certain standard, it would not be conveyed to the treatment works. He assured members that the treatment works were capable of treating water of varying quality to comply fully with the World Health Organization standards. As most people in Hong Kong lived in high-rise buildings, water had to be conveyed through an extensive distribution system of water pipes before reaching consumers' taps. Generally speaking, if the water was left inside the pipes for a long time after leaving the treatment works, its quality would be affected. With the enactment of legislation in 1994 to prohibit the use of unlined galvanized iron pipes in new buildings and in replacement watermain works, the quality of water would be expected to improve significantly within the next five to ten years following gradual replacement of aged water pipes.

31. Noting the commencement of a replacement programme of aged watermains in 2000 for completion by 2006, the Chairman requested expedition of the works and coordination with other road works to minimize disruption to traffic. DSW responded that there was an ongoing programme to replace watermains. In view of the increase in occurrence of water bursting, the Water Supplies Department drew up an Asset Management Plan to manage underground pipes in a systematic way. The worthiness of fresh water pipes lasted about 50 years. Given the average age of existing watermains of around 30 years, the Administration considered it appropriate to start the systematic replacement programme in 2000 which would be proceeded on a district basis. DSW assured members that close liaison would be maintained with the police, the Transport Department, and public utilities companies to coordinate the road opening works to minimize disruption to traffic.

River training schemes

32. On Hon Andrew CHENG Kar-foo's concern about the provision of rehousing for residents in flood prone areas or affected by river training projects, S for W said that rehousing did not fall within the purview of the Works Bureau. He however pointed out that with the completion of the flood protection schemes, the flooding problem in the New Territories would be greatly mitigated. The Director of Drainage Services(DDS) added that the implementation of the river training schemes necessitated the rehousing of residents living right next to the river banks. These residents, who were living in squatters, had no entitlement to the land but had nevertheless been offered rehousing in the past. About 311 households from Tak Yuet Lau, Ho Sheung Heung and Tin Ping Shan would be rehoused before the next rainy season. More affected villagers would be rehoused as the river training works proceeded upstream. Sixteen village flood protection schemes had been completed successfully. Eleven more schemes were at the construction and planning stages.

33. Mr CHENG was of the view that instead of dealing with rehousing matters on a case by case basis, the Works Bureau and the Housing Bureau should jointly formulate a rehousing policy for flood victims and persons affected by flooding protection schemes. S for W said that whilst the works departments were prepared to advise on rehousing issues related to public works, the Works Bureau was not in a position to give any undertaking in this respect. Assessment of eligibility for rehousing rested with the Housing Bureau.

Road closure

34. Hon James TO Kun-sun noted with concern the absence of compensation for loss to businesses caused by closure of public roads for a certain period of time. In response, S for W said that under the Roads (Works, Use and Compensation) Ordinance (Cap. 370), persons could claim compensation for resumption of land or disturbance resulting from permanent extinction of easement arising from road works.

35. The Chairman informed that in a recent case handled by the Complaints Division of the Secretariat, the Administration had advised that persons aggrieved by temporary closure of public roads might claim compensation. The Chairman suggested and the member agreed to seek clarification before putting the matter on the Panel's outstanding list for discussion. Clerk to note

III Confirmation of minutes of meeting
(LC Paper No. CB(1)303/98-99)

36. The minutes of meeting on 10 September 1998 were confirmed.

IV Date of next meeting and items for discussion

37. Members agreed to discuss the following items at the next regular meeting of the Panel to be held on 12 November 1998 -

  1. Central Registration System;
  2. Capital Works Reserve Fund, Block Allocation 1999-2000; and
  3. Tsuen Wan Bay Further Reclamation
(Post meeting note: At the request of the Administration and with the consent of the Chairman, item (b) was deferred for discussion and item (c) was replaced by the subject of New Central Government Complex at the Tamar Basin Reclamation Site.)

V Information papers issued since last meeting
(LC Paper No. CB(1)279/98-99)

38. Members noted that an information paper on the proposed Central Registration System for Land Registry had been issued on 30 September 1998 which would be considered at the next meeting.

VI Wanchai Reclamation Phase II - Consultants' fee and site investigation
(LC Paper No. CB(1)304/98-99)

39. At the invitation of the Chairman, the Principal Assistant Secretary for Planning, Environment and Lands (Planning) (PAS/PEL) highlighted that the Central and Wanchai Reclamation Feasibility Study conducted in 1989 originally recommended reclamation of 45 hectares in Wanchai reclamation phase 2 (WR2) to make way for residential and hotel development, as well as development of a cruise centre and a public park. With the enactment of the Protection of the Harbour Ordinance (Cap 531) in June 1997, and having regard to the strong public sentiments against reclamation, the Administration revised the proposal to reduce significantly the proposed reclamation to only 27 hectares to provide land mainly for accommodating the Island Eastern Corridor Link (IECL) plus a 40-metre wide waterfront promenade. PAS/PEL emphasized that the provision of a promenade would make the waterfront area in Wanchai and Causeway Bay accessible to the public.

40. The Chairman expressed concern about the timing in conducting the consultancy study for WR2. He said that the consultancy study would be based on the preliminary proposal made by the Administration on the extent of reclamation. However, the outline zoning plans for the area had yet to be approved by the Town Planning Board and the Provisional District Boards had not been consulted. In response, PAS/PEL clarified that the objective of the consultancy study was to draw up a proposal on the extent of reclamation required for the stated purpose. The preliminary proposal of reclaiming 27 hectares in WR2 was only a framework plan for consideration by the consultants. The exact extent of reclamation would depend on the findings of the consultancy study. Based on those findings, an outline zoning plan would be submitted to the Town Planning Board for consideration. PAS/PEL stressed that the Administration had no intention of making use of WR2 project to form land for other purposes.

41. Some members opined that to provide the necessary transport infrastructure to ease traffic flow in the area, the Administration should explore the viability of constructing overhead links or underground carriageways, hence reducing the need for reclamation. PAS/PEL said that the Administration had conducted initial studies before coming up with the proposed alignment of the Central-Wanchai Bypass and IECL. Using a map, the Project Manager, Hong Kong Island and Islands, Territorial Development Department (PM/TDD) explained the proposed alignment and pointed out that the proposed Central - Wanchai Bypass and IECL would have sections running overhead and underground.

42. Noting that the proposed section of IECL in the present site of Yacht Club would be on the road surface, the Chairman enquiried about the feasibility of changing this section to underground carriageways to dispense with the need to reprovision the Yacht Club. PM/TDD said that such a design would necessitate an increase in the gradient of the flyover connecting the Island Eastern Corridor to the extent that the traffic engineering requirements could not be met.

43. Since a section of the proposed IECL would run underground between the old and new wings of the Convention and Exhibition Centre as advised by the Administration, a member queried the need for reclaiming the area on both sides of the new wing. PAS/PEL replied that the proposed reclaimed site would accommodate not just IECL but also a network of slip roads connecting traffic from Rumsey Street to the Convention and Exhibition Centre, Wanchai and Causeway Bay. The proposed consultancy study would look into the alignment of this whole network of roads in making recommendation on the extent of reclamation. PM/TDD added that if the sea area on both sides of the new wing of the Convention and Exhibition Centre remained intact, the water-line would become "L"-shaped after the completion of Central reclamation phase 3 and this would have impact on the water quality in the area.

44. As to whether the proposed reclamation complied with the provisions of the Protection of the Harbour Ordinance, PAS/PEL clarified that the Ordinance provided for a presumption against reclamation in the Central Harbour but did not prohibit reclamation per se. The provisions of the Ordinance required that the public benefits of the preservation of the Central Harbour be weighed against the public benefits of the reclamation project before a decision was taken to proceed with the project. He confirmed that the proposed reclamation was not in breach of the provisions of the Ordinance.

45. As regards the Administration's position on sustainable development in proposing WR2, PAS/PEL said that the primary purpose of WR2 was to provide land for transport infrastructure to relieve traffic. In the Administration's view, the project complied with the spirit of sustainability which included economic, cultural and social considerations.

46. Members were unconvinced of the explanations put forth by the Administration to reclaim an area of 27 hectares. They considered that the proposed extent of reclamation was more than necessary to accommodate IECL and that the reclaimed site might be used for other purposes. Members therefore did not support the funding proposal and suggested that the Administration should not submit it to the Public Works Subcommittee for consideration.

47. There being no other business, the meeting ended at 1:00 pm.

Legislative Council Secretariat
3 December 1998