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LCQ12: Farmers affected by development plans

Following is a question by the Hon Steven Ho and a written reply by the Secretary for Development, Mr Eric Ma, in the Legislative Council today (April 12):

Question:

Quite a number of farmers affected by development plans have relayed to me that some owners of agricultural lands have, after knowing the development plans relating to their lands, employed means such as substantially increasing rents and entering into tenancy agreements of extremely short tenancy periods, in order to force their tenant farmers to move out of their lands before the commencement of the Government's pre-clearance freezing surveys, in the hope of receiving higher compensations. As a result, those farmers who have been genuinely affected are not granted any ex-gratia allowance. In addition, there are comments that given the stringent legal requirements for the application of a Livestock Keeping Licence, it is difficult for farmers operating livestock farms to identify sites that fully comply with such requirements for the reprovisioning of their farms.  In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

 (1) of the total area of the agricultural lands affected by various development plans in the past three years (including agricultural lands which were resumed by the Government and those with plans for changing land uses), and mark the location and site area of each of such agricultural lands on a map;
 
 (2) according to the authorities' estimation, in respect of those livestock farms that will be affected in the coming three years by the development plans listed in the table below, of the respective (i) numbers of such farms, (ii) districts in which such farms are located, and (iii) their site areas, and (iv) the total site areas of those livestock farms which are located within one kilometre from the boundaries of the development plans (set out the relevant information in the table below);

Development plan (i) (ii) (iii) (iv)
Kwu Tung North and Fanling North New Development Areas        
Hung Shui Kiu New Development Area        
Yuen Long South        
The West Rail site and three adjacent public housing sites in Kam Tin South        
Other areas in New Territories North        
Development of Lantau (Tung Chung New Town Extension, Sunny Bay and Siu Ho Wan reclamation, Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge Hong Kong Boundary Crossing Facilities artificial island)        
Public housing development at Wang Chau, Yuen Long        

(3) in the past three years, of (i) the number of times that the Government consulted the farmers concerned on issues relating to the relocation of the affected livestock farms and the identification of sites for reprovisioning of such farms, and (ii) the number of cases in which the Government successfully assisted such farmers in identifying suitable sites for reprovisioning of their livestock farms; among such successful cases, of the criteria for selecting sites for reprovisioning;
 
(4) given that the Government has implemented a special agricultural land rehabilitation scheme in respect of the development plans in North East New Territories to assist affected farmers in identifying sites to resume farming, of the relevant details and progress;
 
(5) whether it will, by making reference to the existing Agricultural Land Rehabilitation Scheme, assist livestock farmers affected by development plans in identifying sites for the reprovisioning of their farms; if so, of the details; if not, the reasons for that; whether it will consider according priority to handling applications made by such farmers for renting agricultural lands; if so, of the details; if not, the reasons for that;
 
(6) of the workflow for the authorities' registration of affected farmers for the purpose of facilitating disbursement of ex-gratia allowances and compensations in future; the time generally taken for the workflow between the decision to implement a development plan and the commencement of a freezing survey for affected farmers; the time generally taken between the commencement of a freezing survey and the disbursement of ex-gratia allowances and compensations to all affected farmers; and
 
(7) whether it will implement a policy whereby farms will only be cleared after they have been reprovisioned at the sites identified, and whether it will enhance the existing mechanism for conducting freezing surveys so that affected tenant farmers will be registered as early as possible to prevent agricultural land owners from forcing them to move out in the hope of getting higher compensations; if so, of the details; if not, the reasons for that?

Reply:
 
President,
 
(1) According to the records of Planning Department, the details of the rezoning of "Agriculture" (AGR) zone to other land use zones on the Outline Zoning Plans pursuant to the Town Planning Ordinance (TPO) in the past three years (2014-2016) are as follows :

Area Land use after rezoning Rezoned area of "AGR" Zone (Hectares) (Approximate)
Ta Kwu Ling North Green Belt and Village Type Development 1.3
Ting Kok Green Belt and Village Type Development 1.2
Lung Yeuk Tau and Kwan Tei South Residential 0.04
Kam Tin South Railway Station and Public Transport Interchange with Commercial/Residential Development; Railway Depot with Commercial/Residential Development; Government, Institution or Community 2.4
Yi O Green Belt 1.3
Total Area (Hectares)(Approximate) 6.24

The approximate locations of the "AGR" zones involved in the rezoning to other uses are shown on Plans I and II.

In the past three years, a total of nine rezoning applications involving "AGR" zones were submitted by individuals under section 12A of the TPO. Amongst them, three were not agreed by the Town Planning Board (TPB), four were withdrawn by the applicant and two were deferred for consideration by TPB. In other words, no rezoning application involving "AGR" zones was approved by TPB in the past three years.

With regard to the 541 planning applications for permanent developments involving "AGR" zones submitted by individuals under section 16 of TPO in the past three years, 280 applications were agreed by TPB including four applications for public utility installation or utility installation for private projects and one application for house. The rest were all applications for New Territories Exempted House (NTEH). The site areas of the approved applications for NTEH ranged from 40 to 1 271 square metres distributing across different districts of the New Territories.

In the past three years, the Government had rezoned a total of 155 300 square metres of private agricultural land, the information on the locations and areas of the agricultural land resumed is detailed in Lands Department's website (www.landsd.gov.hk/en/legco/acq.htm).
 
(2) According to the records of the Transport and Housing Bureau, Planning Department, Civil Engineering and Development Department and Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD), the respective (i) numbers of such farms, (ii) districts in which such farms are located, (iii) their site areas, and (iv) the total site areas of those livestock farms which are located within one kilometre from the boundaries of the development plans as expected by the Government in the coming three years are tabulated below :

Development plan(i)(ii)(iii)(iv)
Kwu Tung North and Fanling North New Development Areas One (pig farm) Kwu Tung, Sheung Shui, NT (Government  land and Lots No. 285-288 in DD 95) 691 square metres Nil
Hung Shui Kiu New Development Area Nil (note 1) N/A N/A Three (no area information)
Yuen Long South Three (another three to be determined)(Note 2) Near Kung Um Road, Yuen Long About 0.9 hectare(Note 3) One (no area information)
Public housing development at Wang Chau, Yuen Long (Note 4) Nil N/A N/A Nil
The West Rail site and three adjacent public housing sites in Kam Tin South Nil N/A N/A Three (no area information)
Development of Lantau (Tung Chung New Town Extension, Sunny Bay and Siu Ho Wan reclamation, Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge Hong Kong Boundary Crossing Facilities artificial island) Nil N/A N/A Nil
Other areas in New Territories North No information at this stage (Note 5)

Note 1: As revealed by the Hung Shui Kiu New Development Area (HSK NDA) Planning and Engineering Study, there is a chicken farm in the study area of HSK NDA. According to the Revised Recommended Outline Development Plan (Revised RODP), it would not be within the development area and affected by the development.

Note 2: According to the draft RODP of the Planning and Engineering Study for Housing Sites in Yuen Long South - Investigation, the two chicken farms and one pig farm at the centre of the Yuen Long South development area would need to be removed. The total area of the three farms is about 0.9 ha. There are another two pig farms and one chicken farm at the southern end of Kung Um Road. Their retention is subject to the formulation and implementation of feasible mitigation measures. Their total area, which is roughly about 2.8 ha estimated based on the farm boundaries provided in the relevant farm licenses, is not included in the land area figure provided in the table.

Note 3: Rough estimate based on the farm boundaries provided in the relevant farm licenses.

Note 4: The information does not include the remaining phases of the public housing developments at Wang Chau, Yuen Long. Civil Engineering and Development Department will engage consultants for an engineering feasibility study for the remaining phases of the proposed public housing developments of Wang Chau in 2017.

Note 5: The Preliminary Feasibility Study on Developing the New Territories North jointly commissioned by the Civil Engineering and Development Department and the Planning Department did not include the detailed investigation of the poultry farms.
 
(3) According to the information of the AFCD, no poultry farm was resumed or cleared in the past three years due to development plan or public works.
 
(4) In general, under the established mechanism, genuine farmers affected by land resumption and clearance arising from public works projects would have to purchase or rent private agricultural land elsewhere if they wish to continue their operations. Nevertheless, in view of the importance of the Kwu Tung North, Fanling North and Hung Shui Kiu New Development Areas (NDAs) and the development in Yuen Long South to the overall land and housing supply, as well as the relatively large area of affected agricultural land in these NDAs, the Government is contemplating launching a special agricultural land rehabilitation scheme. The scheme would identify suitable government land or landowners who are willing to lease or sell their land suitable for agricultural re-site/rehabilitation, with a view to matching the land/landowners with farmers affected by relevant development projects for facilitating their agricultural rehabilitation. The Government will announce the details of the scheme in due course.
 
(5) The AFCD provides assistance by bringing owners of farmland and interested farmers together to work out a rental agreement for leasing out the farmland under the Agricultural Land Rehabilitation Scheme (ALRS), with a view to better utilising the fallow farmland. The AFCD will also provide successful tenants with agricultural technical support, and assist them in conducting farming activities. In the event that a livestock farmer wishes to consider relocation, he should look for a relocation site through ALRS and the site should fulfil the requirements set out in the Public Health (Animals and Birds) (Licensing of Livestock Keeping) Regulation (Cap 139L) with regard to regulation over livestock keeping control, bio-security and environmental protection, as well as the regulatory requirements related to planning and lands.
 
(6) and (7) The development and works projects will necessitate resuming private land, including private agricultural land, by the Government. The private land concerned will normally revert to the Government three months from the gazettal of resumption notice. Landowners will be compensated for the land resumed. Farmers operating on the affected agricultural land on the date of reversion will, upon assessment and verification of their farmer status by officers of relevant government departments, receive relevant ex-gratia allowances, including crop compensation, disturbance allowance for cultivators, allowance for pig and poultry farmers, ex-gratia allowance for pond fish farmers rearing edible fish and fish fry, allowance for qualified farm structures on private land, and allowance for miscellaneous permanent improvements to farms. Upon publication of gazette of land resumption, the Lands Department (LandsD) will post a notice, and officers from relevant government departments will conduct field assessment at the affected land and record the particulars of farmers and their agricultural operations. Applications for various ex-gratia allowances will be processed in accordance with the established mechanisms. In general, the Government would release the various ex-gratia allowances to the affected eligible farmers three months after completion of field assessment and verification of the farmer status.

The Government has made no arrangement for identifying agricultural land elsewhere for reception of the farmers affected by land resumption and clearance arising from public works projects. Prior to the resumption, any tenancy and rental arrangements between landowners and tenants are within the domain of private agreement, in which it is inappropriate for the Government to get involved. Upon publication of gazette of land resumption, the LandsD will post a notice, and officers from relevant government departments will conduct field assessment at the affected land and record the particulars of farmers and their agricultural operations on the day of reversion of the land to Government, and will process applications for various ex-gratia allowances according to the established mechanism.
Ends/Wednesday, April 12, 2017
Issued at HKT 16:25
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