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LCQ7: Changes in planned uses of sites

Following is a question by the Hon Hui Chi-fung and a written reply by the Secretary for Development, Mr Paul Chan, in the Legislative Council today (December 14):
 
Question:

Regarding issues involving changes in the planned uses of sites, will the Government inform this Council:

(1) in respect of the approved cases in the past five years in which sites planned for "Government, Institution or Community", "Open Space" and "Green Belt" uses (collectively referred to as "public use" below) were rezoned for residential, industrial or commercial use (collectively referred to as "non-public use" below), of the details of such cases including the locations, areas and the new uses of the sites concerned; whether the authorities, after changing the planned uses of the sites concerned, have implemented the following compensatory measures: (i) rezoning other sites within the relevant districts for public use, and (ii) requesting the owners of the sites rezoned for non-public use to incorporate recreational, leisure and greening facilities in the developments on the relevant sites; if they have, of the details; if not, the reasons for that;

(2) in respect of the cases in which the authorities are planning to change the planned uses of sites from public use to non-public use in the coming two years, of the details of such cases including the locations, areas and the new uses of the sites concerned; whether the authorities, after changing the planned uses of the sites concerned, will implement the two compensatory measures mentioned in (1) above; if they will, of the details; if not, the reasons for that; and
 
(3) whether there is any existing policy requiring the authorities to implement the two compensatory measures mentioned in (1) above after public use sites are rezoned for non-public use; if so, of the details of the policy; if not, whether the authorities will formulate such a policy, so as to ensure that changes in the planned uses of sites will not result in a reduction of recreational, leisure and greening facilities available for use by residents?

Reply:
 
President,

Under the multi-pronged strategy to increase land supply, the Government has been carrying out land use reviews to identify more developable land for housing and other uses in the short to medium term, with a view to optimising the use of land resources. Such land use reviews conducted by the Planning Department (PlanD) have already covered land currently unleased or unallocated, under short term tenancy or other short-term uses, and other government land currently with no development plan. These include land with development potential that are in the fringe of the built-up areas in existing urban areas and new towns, adjacent to existing roads and other infrastructures, and with relatively low conservation value and buffering effect, including suitable land within the "Government, Institution or Community" (G/IC), "Open Space" (O) and "Green Belt" (GB) zones.

In examining the suitability of a site for housing or other developments, the Government, as always, will holistically consider various relevant factors, including whether the site is no longer needed for the originally planned use, the development programme of the originally planned use, whether suitable sites are available as alternatives, the location and size of the site, local characteristics, traffic, environment, air ventilation, ecology, infrastructures, recreational and community facilities, urban design, etc. The PlanD will also consult relevant government departments to confirm that rezoning of the site concerned for housing and other developments will not create insurmountable technical difficulties or unacceptable impacts on traffic and environment, etc..

Through aforementioned on-going land use reviews, the Government has identified some 190 sites with housing development potential in the short to medium term over the last few years (including the some 150 sites announced in the 2014 Policy Address and another 42 sites for residential development in the short to medium term identified under the various initiatives to increase land supply announced in the 2013 Policy Address). Among these 190 sites, about a third were originally zoned GB; another  one-third originally zoned G/IC; about a tenth originally zoned O; and the rest were in other land use zones. In addition, the PlanD has also, on an on-going basis, conducted land use reviews and rezoned suitable sites for industrial and commercial uses to meet the needs of our continual economic development.

If the sites proposed for rezoning are currently zoned for G/IC or O, the PlanD and relevant departments will consider the district's existing and future demand for G/IC facilities or open space to ensure that the provision of the relevant facilities or open space in the district after rezoning will still comply with the Hong Kong Planning Standards and Guidelines, and that the rezoning will not bring about unacceptable impact on the district in terms of environment, community services and infrastructural support. Where necessary and with the support of relevant bureaux or departments, the Government will mandate the reprovisioning or provision of necessary public facilities such as refuse collection points, community halls or social welfare facilities in the development projects concerned, or identify other suitable sites for reprovisioning or providing such facilities. The Government will also seek the views of the District Council (DC) and the local community on the proposed change of land use and the reprovision of the relevant facilities.

Regarding GB zones, the Stage 1 GB review completed by the PlanD in 2012 mainly focused on devegetated, deserted or formed GB sites. In 2013, the PlanD completed the Stage 2 GB review, which covers sites in the fringe of built-up areas close to existing urban areas and new towns. These sites mainly fall on the fringe of GB zones or are close to developed areas or public roads. Though vegetated, they have relatively less buffering effect and lower conservation value. Moreover, as these sites are close to supporting infrastructure facilities such as transport, water supply and sewerage, they are considered as having good potential to be rezoned for housing purposes, and are clear choices for urban expansion.

In rezoning GB zones, besides assessing the development proposal in accordance with the established mechanism mentioned above to ensure no unacceptable impact on the area, the authority concerned will, in cases where natural trees or precious trees with conservation value are found within individual sites (including rezoned GB sites), request the project proponent (including the Government and private developers) to preserve or relocate the existing trees with conservation value, or replant trees in accordance with the established greening guidelines and tree preservation mechanisms.

Having consulted the PlanD and the Lands Department, my consolidated reply to the three-part question is as follows.

In the past five years (i.e. from December 2011 to November 2016), a total of about 86 G/IC, O and GB sites were approved by the Town Planning Board (TPB) for rezoning to residential use (including about 70 sites identified in the above-mentioned land use reviews), while 12 G/IC, O and GB sites were rezoned to commercial or industrial uses upon approval by the TPB. In addition, the TPB received a total of 34 applications for amendments to plans relating to rezoning G/IC, O or GB sites for residential, industrial or commercial uses, of these five were agreed/partially agreed by the TPB. Details of the 98 sites agreed by the TPB for rezoning and the five planning applications agreed/partially agreed by the TPB are set out in Annex I and II respectively.

As mentioned above, a holistic approach will be adopted to take into account all relevant factors when considering the rezoning of G/IC, O and GB sites for other development uses. The Government will also consult relevant bureaux and departments to ensure that the developments will not bring any unacceptable impact to the areas, and make necessary reprovisioning/provision of certain facilities on a need basis. We do not keep these statistics.

Regarding the Government's plans on rezoning G/IC, O and GB sites in the coming two years, detailed planning and technical assessments will have to be conducted before the sites' actual size, development parameters, estimated numbers of residential units or commercial or industrial floor space to be produced, etc., can be ascertained. The PlanD will provide further details of individual sites when seeking to amend the statutory plans concerned and consult DCs and the public in accordance with the established procedures.

Ends/Wednesday, December 14, 2016
Issued at HKT 18:20

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