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LCQ8: Art studios in industrial buildings

Following is a question by the Hon Jeremy Tam and a written reply by the Secretary for Development, Mr Eric Ma, in the Legislative Council today (May 10):

Question:

Since 2015, the authorities have amended the Outline Zoning Plans of a number of districts to include "Art Studio (excluding those involving direct provision of services or goods)" as an always permitted use in industrial-office buildings in "Industrial", "Other Specified Uses" annotated "Business" and "Residential (Group E)" zones ("relaxation measure"). In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(1) of the definition of "Art Studio" adopted by the authorities and the considerations involved;

(2) whether it has assessed the effectiveness of the relaxation measure in respect of assisting art workers in successfully renting industrial building units; if so, of the details and the quantitative indicators concerned;

(3) whether those studios which are mainly used for rehearsal or creative work (such as painting studios and studios for theatre companies and dance troupes) will be regarded, on the ground that such studios are occasionally used for conducting teaching activities, as "involving direct provision of services" and therefore cannot benefit from the relaxation measure; if so, whether the authorities will consider including such art studios in the use to which the relaxation measure is applicable; if they will not, of the reasons for that; and

(4) given that the Lands Department (LandsD) has, since August 2016, commenced risk-based enforcement actions against lease breaches involving the change of uses in industrial buildings, of the respective numbers of lease-breaching cases to date in respect of which LandsD has issued warning letters, conducted investigations and handled in a stringent manner (such as re-entering the relevant units), as well as the number of such cases in which the owners concerned have made rectifications; among such cases, the number of those involving art studios?

Reply:

President,

Having consulted the Home Affairs Bureau (HAB) and the Security Bureau, my reply to the four parts of the question is as follows –

(1) In view of the demand for arts space by local artists, HAB has examined with the relevant departments on how to further assist the sector in the use of industrial buildings and other space for arts creation and related activities, including the feasibility of allowing artists to carry out arts creation work in industrial buildings. After discussions, the relevant departments have agreed to include “Art Studio” (excluding those involving direct provision of services or goods) as an always permitted use in industrial-office buildings in "Industrial" (I), "Other Specified Uses" annotated "Business" (OU(B)) and "Residential (Group E)" (R(E)) zones.

The uses allowed under "Art Studio" (excluding those involving direct provision of services and goods) refer to any art studios that would not normally attract visiting members of the general public by providing direct services or goods to them.  For instance, hobby classes, seminars and sales of goods are excluded. According to the Definition of Terms used by the Town Planning Board (TPB) to interpret planning terms used in Statutory Plans, "Art Studio" means any premises purely used as a working place for the creation of paintings, sculptures, pottery and other pictures or objects which are the subject of art and as a venue for rehearsal for art performance.  It excludes any premises to be used for teaching art subjects which will be regarded as a type of school use, or for domestic purposes. The above definition of "Art Studio" has made reference to the general mode of operation of premises for such purpose, building safety, fire safety risks of relevant activities, and the degree of potential nuisance to be caused to other users.

(2) As at end-April 2017, the TPB has amended a total of 14 Outline Zoning Plans (OZPs) according to the recommendation in part (1) above. Similar amendments to other OZPs would be made in a timely manner.

The expansion of always permitted uses in industrial-office buildings in "I", "OU(B)" and "R(E)" zones aims to relax the relevant statutory planning restrictions on such uses in the relevant buildings. The actual uses in industrial buildings depend on commercial operation and market forces. The Government does not compile statistics on the use of industrial buildings by art workers.

(3) Art studios which are mainly used for creative work such as painting studios would be regarded as "involving direct provision of services" if they are occasionally used for conducting teaching activities. Premises which provide rehearsal venues for various theatre companies and dance troupes would also be regarded as "involving direct provision of services".  These uses are not allowed in industrial buildings.

In considering ways to optimise the use of land resources in Hong Kong, including the relaxation of non-industrial uses in industrial buildings, one of the important considerations is whether the proposed measures would constitute significant fire risk. Industrial activities, which carry a much higher risk of fire and other accidents than commercial and other activities, take place in many industrial buildings. In addition, industrial activities often involve the loading and unloading, storage and use of dangerous goods, further increasing the fire risk. If activities attracting members of the public take place in industrial buildings, as the participants in such activities may not be aware of the potential risks involved in industrial buildings and may not know how to evacuate from industrial buildings, they could face severe threats in case of fire and other emergencies in industrial buildings.  It is therefore unacceptable from the fire safety point of view for activities involving direct provision of services or goods, including educational activities, to take place in industrial buildings.

With due regard to public safety, the Government will continue to examine how to further optimise the use of existing industrial buildings for various activities and to provide more spaces for arts, cultural and sports activity purposes.

(4) As at end-April 2017, District Lands Offices of the Lands Department (LandsD) had identified 94 premises (scattered across 15 industrial buildings) which were cases targeted for the first round of risk-based enforcement actions. Among these 94 cases, the concerned owners had rectified the breach of use in 66 cases prior to the issue of warning letter. As for the remaining 28 cases, relevant District Lands Offices had issued warning letter to the owner of the relevant industrial building units, requiring owners to rectify the breach of use within 14 days.  For the 28 cases with warning letter issued, 25 cases had rectified the breach before expiry of the warning period, and the other 3 cases had proved to the LandsD the rectification of the breach before the completion of the re-entry procedures by the LandsD, and as a result, there was no need for the department to continue its re-entry action.  The above-mentioned confirmed breach cases involved uses including learning centres, places of entertainment/recreation, shops and religious gathering places. In respect of art studio use which is of concern to Hon Tam, if it is a breach of use according to the relevant land lease but does not attract members of the public, such as self-occupied cultural/creative workshops, they are not currently targeted for stringent enforcement action by the LandsD.

Ends/Wednesday, May 10, 2017
Issued at HKT 11:50

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