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LCQ1: Hopewell Centre II

Following is a question by the Hon Cyd Ho Sau-lan and a reply by the Secretary for Development, Mrs Carrie Lam, in the Legislative Council today (November 26):

Question:

The developer of the Hopewell Centre II project plans to exchange for land on the slope at Kennedy Road by land exchange or payment of premium to construct a hotel and commercial building.  If the land exchange proposal is approved, some 500 trees of that area will be felled.  According to the traffic impact assessment provided by the developer, the traffic flow during rush hours will be increased by 500 vehicles per hour upon completion of the development project, resulting in a substantial increase of emission in the district.  In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(a)  of the land exchange policies in place and the criteria adopted for land exchange; the land lot proposed to be surrendered by the developer in exchange for the land on the slope mentioned above; and whether the proposed land lot can also serve the same function as some 500 trees on the slope in terms of absorption of carbon dioxide;

(b)  whether it will consult the public on the land exchange proposal and approve it only after a consensus is reached in the community; if it will not, of the reasons for that; and

(c)  although the land grant provisions require that the developer to carry out road improvement works, the proposed improvement measures by the developer are limited only to mitigating the vehicular flow into Queen's Road East from Kennedy Road, without addressing the impact of the vehicular flow on the junction of Queen's Road East, Wong Nai Chung Road and Morrison Hill Road, impact on Canal Road West and Leighton Road and their neighbourhood, as well as the impact on traffic to and from Southern District, the Cross Harbour Tunnel to Hung Hom, and the east and west bound traffic of Hong Kong Island, whether it will request the developer to cover the above districts in its traffic impact assessment; if it will not, of the reasons for that?

Reply:

President,

As explained in my reply last week to the question raised by Hon Tanya CHAN on the Hopewell Centre II project, the developer has decided to reduce the scale of the project significantly having listened to public views and after repeated discussions with the Government.   Under the new revised scheme, the total gross floor area, plot ratio, number of hotel rooms and building height will be significantly reduced as compared with the 1994 approved scheme.  

The developer will follow up with Transport Department (TD) on the Traffic Impact Assessment (TIA) report and road improvement works in the context of the new revised scheme.  I believe that the significant reduction in development intensity would help the discussion between the developer and TD regarding the TIA in the next phase.

Other than the road improvement works, the Town Planning Board (TPB), in granting the planning permission in 1994, required the developer to submit and implement landscape proposals and tree felling report in respect of the entire development to the satisfaction of the Director of Planning or the TPB.  Besides, tree preservation clauses will be included in the land exchange conditions for the proposed development to ensure that, without prior written consent of the Government, no trees grown on the site will be removed or disturbed.  In giving its consent, the Government may as appropriate impose different conditions, e.g., requirements on transplanting, compensatory landscaping or replanting.  

My reply to the three-part question raised by Hon Cyd HO is as follows:

(a)  Our existing land policy is to optimise land uses within the framework of planned land use zoning.  In general, the Government accepts developers' applications for "in-situ exchange" to allow implementation of plans or projects approved within the statutory planning framework and uphold the principle of optimisation of land use.  This involves arrangements concerning the surrender of the private lot within the development site by the developer in exchange for the re-grant of a whole piece of land composed of private land and land originally belonging to the Government for development.  Certain criteria have to be met for such applications.  These include the government land involved in the "in situ exchange" being incapable of reasonable separate alienation or development; there being no foreseeable public use for the land concerned; and the developer having to pay full market value premium to ensure that the revenue received by the Government is no less than that gained through separate alienation.

As regards the Hopewell Centre II project, the developer has followed the above policy and submitted to the Lands Department (LandsD) an application for in-situ exchange in accordance with the scheme approved by the TPB in 1994.  The application involves the surrender of the private lot owned by Hopewell within the development site in exchange for the re-grant of a whole piece of land which includes land originally belonging to the Government.  Such government land is mainly the government slope adjacent to and surrounding the private lot within the site.

As I have pointed out just now, we can preserve the trees within the site through the landscape proposals and tree felling reports submitted by the developer, as well as the tree preservation clauses included in the conditions of exchange.  In fact, the developer, in response to the public concern about the trees within the development site, announced last week that $20 million would be injected to launch a comprehensive tree protection project.  There will be 650 trees with more balanced species upon the completion of the project and the green park.  As regards the technical issue about the emission and absorption of carbon to be generated by 500 passenger car units and 500 trees as raised by Hon Cyd HO, I would like to refer to the Director of Environmental Protection to examine.  However, simply from the greening angle, the project will provide 5,880 square meters of open space.  The developer also said that the local community would be consulted on the design of the park.

(b)  The public generally welcome Hopewell's announcement last week of its decision to significantly reduce the scale of development.  Generally speaking, it is inappropriate to conduct public consultation on individual cases because land administration (including land exchange, lease modification and payment of land premium) is the exercise by the Government of its rights as landlord.  As land exchange normally involves planning or other applications such as TIA, there would be some degree of public engagement.  The Government places high importance on public views.  LandsD, when processing applications for in-situ exchange, will consider the views referred by the relevant departments and put forward by the public.  Take the Hopewell Centre II project as an example, I have made it clear that green light will be given to the land exchange application only after the road improvement scheme is approved.  The Government must publish a notice in the Gazette of the proposed road improvement works in accordance with the Roads (Works, Use and Compensation) Ordinance (Cap. 370).  This statutory procedure allows the public to express their views, which shall be considered by the Government before the road works are authorized.  Therefore, the public have ample time and opportunity to express their views on the traffic impacts under the project.

(c)  As the development project was endorsed by the TPB as early as in 1994, the main purpose of the updated TIA report required by TD in connection with the application for a land exchange subsequently submitted by the developer is to confirm whether the road improvement works proposed previously are still appropriate.  Two key road junctions at Queen's Road East/Kennedy Road and Queen's Road East/Spring Garden Lane near the development site are involved.  This method of assessing the traffic impact on peripheral roads also applies to other similar developments.

The vehicular flow of Wong Nai Chung Road, Morrison Hill Road, Canal Road West, Leighton Road and their neighbourhood, as well as the impact on traffic between from Southern District and the Cross Harbour Tunnel and the east and west bound traffic of Hong Kong Island as raised in the question are traffic issues at the district level.  TD will consider the various projects within the districts and conduct strategic study when necessary.

Ends/Wednesday, November 26, 2008
Issued at HKT 12:16

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