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LCQ4: Interdepartmental task forces on land development led by the Chief Executive

Following is a question by Dr the Hon Yiu Chung-yim and a reply by the Secretary for Development, Mr Paul Chan, in the Legislative Council today (November 16):

Question:

In reply to a question raised by a Member of this Council in May 2013, the Secretary for Development indicated that "as the coordination work on planning, development and land supply is now well handled by the Steering Committee on Land Supply and the Committee on Planning and Land Development, we have no plan to set up another interdepartmental committee specifically responsible for land issues in the New Territories." However, the Government has recently revealed that an interdepartmental task force led by the Chief Executive (CE) was formed in June 2013 to steer the public housing development at Wang Chau (Wang Chau development) as well as the public housing development at Queen's Hill. CE has indicated that as the two key public housing projects of significant scale involve complicated issues such as planning, infrastructure, transport and environmental protection, he decided that the task force would be chaired by himself. The Government has also indicated that the actual implementation work for the two projects would be carried out by various government departments in accordance with the usual procedures. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:
 
(1)  of the principles based on which the Government determines whether an interdepartmental task force led by the Chief Executive needs to be formed for a particular land development project, including the minimum scale of the development project for the Government to consider the formation of a task force;
 
(2)  apart from the aforesaid task force, of the number of CE-led interdepartmental task forces on land development issues formed by the Government in the past five years, together with the membership list, date of formation and number of meetings held so far in respect of each task force; and
 
(3)  of the respective timetables for the ground investigation works, funding application and construction works of the first, second and third phases of Wang Chau development; whether the aforesaid task force would be responsible for steering the implementation of the second and third phases; whether the authorities are required to submit the projects to CE in Council for vetting and approval prior to the official commencement of land development projects of similar scale as Wang Chau development; if they are so required, whether Wang Chau development has gone through such procedure; if the procedure has not been gone through, of the reasons for that? 
 
Reply:
 
President,
 
For part (1) and part (2) of the question, as explained in the Government's reply to the Council's question No. 18 on November 2, 2016, the Government has put in place the Steering Committee on Land Supply and the Committee on Planning and Land Development, as a standing mechanism, to coordinate works on planning, development and land supply. Land and housing supply is high in the priority list of the current-term Government. Depending on the need, the Chief Executive (CE) will chair inter-departmental meetings to take forward high-level coordination work of large-scale land supply projects. The Task Force on Wang Chau and Queen's Hill Site is one of the examples. The directions given by the CE will be followed up by relevant policy bureaux and departments in accordance with the established mechanism. Development Bureau so far has no separate statistics on the number of the related meetings. We cannot afford to give priority to searching for government records for the past many years which would require resources, manpower and time. As such, we cannot provide the requested information at this stage.
 
Regarding Wang Chau in Yuen Long and Queen's Hill in North District, the Government is committed to identifying land for public housing developments. Both Wang Chau and Queen's Hill developments are important projects because of their especially large development sites which may provide almost 30 000 public housing units, the amount of the target of the public housing supply in a year. As such large-scale developments usually involve complicated issues of planning, infrastructure, transport, environmental protection, etc., the CE has personally chaired the task force to make high-level directional decisions for these two developments with a view to taking them forward as soon as possible and thereby solving the housing problem of the grassroots. The task force held its meeting in June 2013 and those in attendance included officials responsible for the policy areas of land, housing, planning and environmental protection.
 
For part (3) of the question, as mentioned by the CE in the press conference on September 21, 2016, both Wang Chau and Queen's Hill developments are important public housing projects. The CE has personally chaired the Task Force and convened a meeting with officials responsible for the policy areas of land, housing, planning and environmental protection on June 27, 2013 for making high-level directional decisions for these two developments with a view to taking them forward as soon as possible and thereby solving the housing problem of the grassroots.
 
The Transport and Housing Bureau (THB) supplemented that, for Wang Chau Phase 1, the Government followed the statutory rezoning procedures under the Town Planning Ordinance and the Chief Executive-in-Council approved the relevant draft Outline Zoning Plan in June 2015. The land concerned was rezoned to "Residential (Group A) 4". In October 2016, the Chief Executive-in-Council authorised relevant departments to carry out site formation and infrastructural works, such as road and drainage works, as well as land resumption for the development pursuant the Roads (Works, Use and Compensation) Ordinance, the Water Pollution Control (Sewerage) Regulation and the Lands Resumption Ordinance. The relevant departments will submit funding applications to the Finance Committee of the Legislative Council at appropriate time.

For the ground investigation works, major works for Wang Chau Phase 1 will commence in January 2018. It is a Category D project under Capital Works Reserve Fund Head 711 (Housing). The Government approved this project in November 2014 under delegated authority. Under a smooth scenario, Wang Chau Phase 1 will be completed in 2024/25.
 
For Wang Chau Phases 2 and 3, the Government is preparing to conduct further technical studies which will take about two years. THB will make reference to the results of the study to determine the implementation plan and development programme.

Ends/Wednesday, November 16, 2016
Issued at HKT 14:09

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