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LCQ18: Statistics on agricultural lands and development plans

Following is a question by the Hon Leung Yiu-chung and a written reply by the Secretary for Development, Mr Eric Ma, in the Legislative Council today (June 28):

Question :

The Government is undertaking a number of development plans, which include: (a) the Kwu Tung North and Fanling North New Development Areas (formerly known as the North East New Territories development), (b) the Hung Shui Kiu New Development Area, (c) the Yuen Long South development, (d) the public housing development at Wang Chau, Yuen Long and (e) the New Territories North development. Regarding the statistics on agricultural lands and these development plans, will the Government inform this Council:
 
(1) of the total areas of agricultural lands which are respectively Government-owned and privately owned at present and, among such agricultural lands, the respective areas of those which are: (i) active farmlands, (ii) agricultural lands that have been converted to other uses (i.e. brownfield sites) and (iii) deserted agricultural lands (set out in Table 1);

Table 1 

  Government agricultural lands (hectares) Private agricultural lands (hectares)
(i)    
(ii)    
(iii)    
Total area    

(2) of the respective numbers of (i) domestic structures and (ii) non-domestic structures on agricultural lands which are respectively Government-owned and privately-owned at present (set out in Table 2);

Table 2 

  Government agricultural lands (hectares) Private agricultural lands (hectares)
(i)    
(ii)    


(3) among the Government-owned and privately-owned lands within the scope of each of the aforesaid development plans, of the respective areas of lands which are (i) active farmlands, (ii) brownfield sites, (iii) deserted agricultural lands and (iv) Green Belt areas (set out in Table 3); and

Table 3

Development plan Government lands (hectares) Private lands (hectares)
(i) (ii) (iii) (iv) (i) (ii) (iii) (iv)
(a)                
(b)                
(c)                
(d)                
(e)                

(4) of the respective numbers of domestic structures and non-domestic structures on the lands within the scope of each of the aforesaid development plans, which are (i) active farmlands, (ii) brownfield sites, (iii) deserted agricultural lands and (iv) Green Belt areas (set out in Table 4)?

Table 4

Development plan Number of structures
(i) (ii) (iii) (iv)
Domestic Non-domestic Domestic Non-domestic Domestic Non-domestic Domestic Non-domestic
(a)                
(b)                
(c)                
(d)                
(e)                

Reply:

President,

Having consulted the Food and Health Bureau, the Transport and Housing Bureau, the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD), the Lands Department and the Planning Department (PlanD), our replies to the question are as follows:

(1) According to the AFCD's survey by the end 2016, there were about 4,400 hectares (ha) of agricultural land (excluding fish ponds) in Hong Kong and about 700 ha of them were actively farmed. According to our assessment, the vast majority (nearly 80 per cent) of the above 4,400 ha agricultural land are private lands, including Old Schedule lots held by private owners under the Block Government Leases and categorised as "agricultural land" while the remaining lands are either unleased or unallocated government land. Such government land is mostly scattered in between private lands including the adjoining land parcels which have been occupied for other uses and covered by structures (mainly squatter structures). These government lands could not therefore be freely allocated for comprehensive development (Note). A breakdown of the above 4,400 ha of agricultural land by active/abandoned agricultural land and land ownership is as follows:

  Private land Government land Total area
Active agricultural land (ha) (percentage of total area) 510
(73%)
190
(27%)
700
(100%)
Abandoned agricultural land
(ha)
(percentage of total area)
2,930

(79%)
770

(21%)
3,700

(100%)
Total area (ha)
(percentage of total area)
3,440
(78%)
960
(22%)
4,400
(100%)

 
Note: For example, if a piece of government land which was once occupied for agricultural use and later abandoned and is adjoining domestic squatters, the Government is required to clear the land and its squatters in accordance with established procedures before the land can be allocated for developments or other uses.

The Government announced in the 2016 Policy Address that it would implement the New Agriculture Policy. In the 2017 Policy Address, the Government announced that a study on Agricultural Priority Areas would be commenced within this year to identify relatively large areas of quality agricultural land and formulate policies and measures to promote the rehabilitation of fallow agricultural land and improve the rural environment. As a considerable amount of agricultural lands in the New Territories are involved, it is estimated that the study may take several years to complete. It is difficult to assess at the moment the locations and areas of agricultural lands that will be included in the Agricultural Priority Areas.

With regard to the "brownfield sites" or "agricultural lands that have been converted to other uses" mentioned in the question, there is no formal or standard definition at present. The terms generally refer to agricultural or rural land in the New Territories that is abandoned and converted to uses which are incompatible with the surrounding environment. For the background information of brownfield sites, Members may refer to the Development Bureau (DEVB)'s reply to a LegCo question raised on February 8 this year (Question No. 16). These lands however are not covered in the above AFCD's survey on agricultural land. Currently, we have no statistical information on the area of brownfield sites over the territory and on the respective areas of private land and government land involved.

The PlanD has commissioned the Study on Existing Profile and Operations of Brownfield Sites in the New Territories. The purpose of the study is to establish a comprehensive profile of brownfield sites including the distribution and uses of brownfield sites in the New Territories, in order to facilitate the Government's formulation of appropriate policies for tackling brownfield sites, including devising appropriate planning and consolidation strategies for brownfield sites in different areas, and exploring feasible and viable measures to accommodate brownfield operations still needed locally, with a view to achieving the objectives of optimising land utilisation, releasing brownfields' potential and improving the rural environment. The Government will in due course conduct public consultation on its policy for tackling brownfield sites.

 (2) Land being occupied by structures is not covered in the above AFCD's survey of 4,400 ha of agricultural land. The Government does not have the statistics on the number of domestic and non-domestic structures, the areas involved and the land ownership of these structures, if any. The information on the tolerated illegal structures on government and private land is based on the registration of such structures conducted by the Government in 1982. As the information is in the form of written records, any attempt to go through these records for compilation of statistics will involve an enormous amount of resources, manpower and time. Such compilation work is not our priority and we are therefore unable to provide the required information.

 (3) Regarding the respective areas of agricultural land, brownfield sites and Green Belt areas within each of the new development areas (NDAs)/new town extensions as required in the question, the areas of active agricultural lands, abandoned agricultural lands and brownfield sites are generally collected as part of the respective planning and engineering studies for individual projects. The figures of the above uses presented under the situation of before the planning of NDAs are based on the researches of the above studies. On the other hand, the figures regarding the areas for relevant land use zones, which are based on the draft recommended outline development plan (RODP) or outline zoning plans (OZPs) formulated after planning for each NDA/new town extension, will also be provided below. Given the different sources of figures for land use areas before and after planning, direct comparison between the two cannot be drawn. Besides, although the figures for Green Belt areas before and after being zoned for NDAs are the areas of such land use zones on the OZPs, direct comparison cannot be drawn because some of the Green Belt areas had already been converted to brownfield sites before they were designated for NDAs/new town extensions (in other words, some of the Green Belt areas overlap with brownfield sites).

The respective areas of land which are agricultural land, brownfield sites and Green Belt areas within each of the NDAs/new town extensions as raised in the question are set out below.

 (a) Kwu Tung North/Fanling North New Development Areas (KTN/FLN NDAs) (Note 1)

  Agricultural land (ha) Brownfield sites (ha) Green Belt areas (ha)
Active Abandoned
Before NDA planning 28
(Note 2)
36 (Note 2) 50 233
(Note 3)
After NDA planning (OZP) 58
(and another 37 ha designated as nature park) (Note 4)
- (Note 5) 128

Note 1: KTN/FLN NDAs have a total area of about 612 ha, of which about 300 ha are developable land. The remaining 312 ha (approximately) include Green Belt (127.7 ha), Conservation Area (2.2 ha) and Open Space(58.2 ha), amounting to 190 ha in total.

Note 2: According to the North East New Territories New Development Areas Planning and Engineering Study completed in 2013, it is estimated that about 64 ha of farmland will be affected by the development of the NDAs, of which some 28 ha are active agricultural land. We do not have the information about the land ownership of those 64 ha of farmland. The Government will introduce special agricultural land rehabilitation arrangements for affected farmers to provide matching services for those who wish to resume farming.

Note 3: The Green Belt areas before planning include land that has been converted to brownfield sites.

Note 4: The core area of Long Valley of about 37 ha will be used to establish a Nature Park in which farming activities can continue. In addition, some 58 ha of Agriculture zones in the NDAs, including the agricultural land to the south and north of the Long Valley, will be retained for the provision of a buffer for the Nature Park. The Agriculture zones retained can continue to be used for agricultural purposes.

Note 5: Under the KTN/FLN NDAs project, all brownfield sites will be eradicated, and through planning, land for housing development, economic activities as well as community/public facilities will be provided.

(b) Hung Shui Kiu New Development Area (HSK NDA) (Note 1)

            Agricultural land (ha) Brownfield sites
(ha)
Green Belt areas
(ha)
active abandoned
Before NDA planning 7 (Note 2) 20 
(Note 2)
190 144 
(Note 3)
After NDA planning (OZP) - - (Note 4) 54
 

Note 1: The Hung Shui Kiu New Development Area Revised Recommended Outline Development Plan (the Revised RODP) prepared under the HSK NDA Planning and Engineering Study was announced in September 2016. According to the Revised RODP, the HSK NDA covers an area of 714 ha, about 441 ha of which are developable land. Of the remaining 273 ha of land, 54 ha are zoned Green Belt in order to protect the natural resources such as the woodlands and the hills covered with vegetation.

Note 2: According to HSK NDA Planning and Engineering Study, we estimate that about 27 ha of agricultural land will be affected by the NDA. Among them, around seven ha are active agricultural land. We do not have the information about the land ownership of those 27 ha of agricultural land. The Government will introduce special agricultural land rehabilitation arrangements for affected farmers to provide matching services for those who wish to resume farming.

Note 3: The Green Belt areas before planning include land that has been converted to brownfield sites.

Note 4: The HSK NDA project will eradicate all brownfield sites, and through comprehensive planning, land for housing development, economic activities and community/public facilities will be provided. About 24 ha of land in the HSK NDA have been earmarked for port back-up and storage activities and for use as workshops under the Revised RODP, including possible construction of multi-storey buildings, so as to accommodate existing brownfield operations through more land efficient means.

(c) Yuen Long South (YLS) Development (Note 1)

  Agricultural land (ha) Brownfield sites
(ha)
Green Belt areas
(ha)
active abandoned
Before Planning for YLS Development 7 (Note 2) 7 (Note 2) 100 23
(Note 3)
After Planning for YLS Development
(Draft RODP)
14 (Note 4) - (Note 5) 8

Note 1: According to the Draft Recommended Outline Development Plan (RODP) published in the Planning and Engineering Study for Housing Sites in Yuen Long South in early 2016, there are a total of 223 ha of potential development areas in the Yuen Long South Development, of which about 183 ha are developable land and the remaining 40 ha include eight ha of Green Belt areas covering secondary woodland and natural streams.

Note 2: Based on the Planning and Engineering Study for Housing Sites in Yuen Long South, we estimate that about 14 ha of agricultural land will be affected by the development areas, of which active agricultural land will account for about seven ha. We do not have the information about the land ownership of these 14 ha of agricultural land.

Note 3: Green Belt areas before planning include land already converted to brownfield sites.

Note 4: About 14 ha of land, including about seven ha of the existing active agricultural land located to the west of Shan Ha Tsuen, has been reserved for agricultural uses in the Draft RODP.

Note 5: Under the development proposals for the YLS development, all brownfield sites will be eradicated, and through comprehensive planning, land for housing development, economic activities and community/public facilities will be provided. About 12 ha of land in YLS has been reserved in the Draft RODP, and better form of land utilisation will be examined to accommodate the existing brownfied operations subject to the implementation of the pilot case in HSK NDA.

(d) Public Housing Development in Wang Chau, Yuen Long

All the three phases of the public housing development in Wang Chau, Yuen Long cover an area of about 19 ha, most of which is private land. It is estimated that about seven ha of brownfield sites and about 2.4 ha of active agricultural land (including the land for growing fruit trees) are located within the public housing development area.

(e) New Territories North

The Preliminary Feasibility Study on Developing the New Territories North (NT North Study), being a preliminary study, is different from a planning and engineering study in terms of level of details. Detailed investigation on land ownership and uses has yet to be conducted. The NT North Study only proposes conceptual ideas of land uses. The potential development areas and land uses therein are for reference only and they are not final recommendation. Hence, no information is available on affected agricultural land.

(4) The question has asked for the numbers of domestic and non-domestic structures as well as the current land use of the sites involved in the new development areas/new town extension projects. As the above new development areas/potential development areas are in different work stages, namely planning study, detailed design or preparation before commencement of works, the Government does not have the relevant numbers of the structures on the sites in the above new development areas/potential development areas.

Regarding individual new development areas/new town extension projects, freezing surveys have been conducted on the tolerated illegal structures on government and private land, and the relevant figures are provided as follows. A point to note is that the freezing surveys are aimed at collecting information on illegal structures (Note) that are tolerated on government or private land and affected by the public works projects within the areas of the respective new development areas/new town extension projects. The purpose of the freezing survey is to capture the current occupation and status of existing structures and business operations within the areas planned for development. The information collected will be used as a reference for conducting resumption and clearance of land in future and making applicable compensation and rehousing arrangements. The information collected does not provide a further breakdown of the current nature of land use of the sites involved.

Note: For example, if a piece of government land which was once occupied for agricultural use and later abandoned and is adjoining domestic squatters, the Government is required to clear the land and its squatters in accordance with established procedures before the land can be allocated for developments or other uses.

  Structure (Note 1) Total
Domestic Non-domestic
KTN/FLN NDAs 1,390 2,810 4,200 (Note 2)
Phase 1 of the Wang Chau public housing development 160 60 220 (Note 3)

Note 1: Provisional figures. When more information on the structures is available, e.g. from those households or business undertakers that could not be reached in the previous freezing surveys, the above figures may be amended.

Note 2: Regarding the KTN/FLN NDAs, around 1,500 households and 440 business operators have been registered by the Government.

Note 3: Regarding Phase 1 of the Wang Chau public housing development, around 180 households and five business operators have been registered by the Government.

As the follow-up work on the freezing survey for the HSK NDA is still ongoing, we are unable to provide the requested information at this stage. As regards the YLS development, it is still under planning and no freezing survey has been conducted. Hence we cannot provide the requested information at this stage either.

Ends/Wednesday, June 28, 2017
Issued at HKT 16:10

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