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LCQ7: Prioritising the development of undeveloped and underdeveloped land

Following is a question by the Hon Abraham Shek and a written reply by the Secretary for Development, Mr Eric Ma, in the Legislative Council today (May 17):

Question:

The Chief Executive announced in the 2017 Policy Address that he had asked the authorities to explore the feasibility of allocating a small proportion of land on the periphery of country parks with relatively low ecological and public enjoyment value for other uses.  Yet there are strong public views that given the existing substantial quantity of undeveloped and underdeveloped land, including brownfield sites in Hong Kong, the Government should accord priority to their development rather than jeopardising our country parks, which are valuable natural assets.  In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(1) of the authorities' projections to date of the respective demands for commercial, residential and industrial spaces for the next decade;
 
(2) of the following details in respect of the sites covered by various statutory outline zoning plans (OZPs) in the table below: (i) the number of undeveloped and/or underdeveloped sites, (ii) their total area, and (iii) the total gross floor area which may be developed, calculated on the basis of the development parameters set out in the respective OZPs and/or the Building (Planning) Regulations (Cap. 123F sub. leg. F); and
  

Undeveloped and/or underdeveloped sites (i) (ii) (iii)
Sites currently zoned for "Commercial", "Residential" and/or "Industrial" uses      
Sites convertible to "Commercial", "Residential" and/or "Industrial" uses by approving planning applications made to the Town Planning Board      

(3) whether the authorities have any plan to prioritise and expedite the development of undeveloped and underdeveloped sites to meet the land demand through various means, including change of land use and/or lease modification; if so, of the details; if not, the reasons for that?

Reply:

President,

In the 2017 Policy Address, the Chief Executive has proposed to increase the total area of ecological conservation sites and country parks, enhance their recreational and educational value, and at the same time consider allocating a small proportion of land on the periphery of country parks with relatively low ecological and public enjoyment value for purposes other than real estate development, such as public housing and non-profit-making elderly homes.  Matters concerning this proposal are being followed up and studied by the relevant bureaux and departments as a further option under the Government's multi-pronged strategy for land supply, which already includes land use reviews, implementation of New Development Areas (NDAs) and new town extension, development of brownfield sites, reclamation, etc.

The above advocacy is in line with the Government's established priority in land use, i.e. priority will be given to land at the fringe of the built-up areas in existing urban areas and new towns, adjacent to existing roads and other infrastructures and having relatively low conservation value and buffering effect, as well as those government sites with development potential which are currently unleased or unallocated, under short term tenancy or different short-term or government uses in existing urban areas and new towns.  For land with development potential, we will examine and assess the feasibility of the development proposal in accordance with the established mechanism.  Land with high ecological, landscape and/or historical value will be preserved.

Having consulted the Transport and Housing Bureau and Planning Department (PlanD), my reply to the various parts of the question is as follows:

(1) Regarding housing demand, under the Long Term Housing Strategy (LTHS) promulgated in December 2014, the Government updates the long term housing demand projection annually and presents a rolling ten-year housing supply target in order to capture changes in social, economic and market circumstances over time and to make timely adjustment where necessary.  Housing demand projection covers four main demand components, namely net increase in the number of households, households displaced by redevelopment, inadequately housed households, and housing needs arising from miscellaneous factors.  Based on objective data of various demand components, the Government projects the supply target which can satisfy the housing demand.  The target will serve as a planning guide for the Government to identify land for housing development.

Based on the latest housing demand projection announced in late 2016, the Government has adopted 460 000 units as the total housing supply target for the ten-year period from 2017/18 to 2026/27, while maintaining the 60:40 public/private split for new housing supply.  Accordingly, the public housing supply target is 280 000 units, including 200 000 public rental housing units and 80 000 subsidised sale units; while the private housing supply target is 180 000 units.  In identifying land for housing development, the Government will use the above-mentioned supply targets as a planning guide.

As regards the demand of land for economic uses, PlanD has completed a consultancy study titled "Review of Land Requirement for Grade A Offices, Business and Industrial Uses" (the Review) early this year.  The Review has provided forecast data on the demand and supply of five types of market-driven economic land uses, including Central Business District (CBD) Grade A Offices (Note 1), Non-CBD Grade A Offices, General Business (Note 2) , Industries (Note 3) and Special Industries (Note 4) , as inputs to the "Hong Kong 2030+: Towards A Planning Vision and Strategy Transcending 2030" ("Hong Kong 2030+") Study, for which the public engagement has just ended.  The Review has adopted quantitative models to assess the demand and supply of land for the five types of uses in the periods from 2013/14 to 2023 (short term), 2033 (medium term) and 2041 (long term), taking into consideration the various factors which may affect the demand for such land and the various land supply projects that are committed, planned or under planning.  The major findings of the assesment are tabulated in the Annex.

(2) and (3) Land is a valuable resource in Hong Kong.  The Government endeavours to make optimal use of land resources through continuous land use planning, allocation and management in order to meet the various development needs of society.  In the reply to a LegCo question raised on November 16 last year (LegCo question 22), the Development Bureau (DEVB) already explained in detail the Government's general mechanisms for planning, allocation and management of land.  In the LegCo Paper No. CB(1)461/16-17(01) submitted to the LegCo Panel on Development in January 2017, DEVB also provided an overview of land demand and supply, and elaborated on the Government's multi-pronged strategy on land supply and the latest progress of the various initiatives for land supply in the short, medium and long term.

The Government does not have a definition of or compile statistics on the so-called "undeveloped or under-developed land".  According to the established mechanism, it is necessary to undergo different stages and procedures before the "potential sites" could turn into "disposable sites" (i.e. developable land), such as land use reviews or other planning and engineering studies, and the necessary procedures and works for the sites.  It takes time to complete these procedures and works, which include tackling various technical issues, seeking funding, land resumption and clearance, site formation, and providing infrastructure and other supporting facilities.  Generally speaking, given the current tight supply of developable land, when a site becomes "disposable" and ready for development, the Government will lease or allocate the site as soon as possible.  Besides, as the unleased or unallocated land merely reflects its status at a given point of time during the implementation of long-term planning uses, and the land use status may change from time to time subject to the planning of land use, such land should not be simply regarded as "undeveloped or under-developed land".  We also do not compile statistics on the unleased or unallocated land on statutory plans.

On land supply, the Government is vigorously taking forward the multi-pronged strategy for land supply.  Generally speaking, land supply suggestions that are considered feasible, such as development of land currently without any development plan, for which the original purpose is no longer pursued or not in optimal use, have already been incorporated into the land supply strategy.  For instance, the various land use reviews conducted by PlanD on an on-going basis have already covered the government land currently unleased or unallocated, under short term tenancy, in different short-term or government uses, and other government land without any development plan at the moment.  With some 210 short to medium-term housing sites identified by the current-term Government through the on-going land use reviews, coupled with the increase of development intensity as appropriate, implementation of Kai Tak Development Area and Diamond Hill Comprehensive Development Area, reuse of three quarry sites, railway property developments, and urban renewal projects, etc., it is expected that a total of over 380 000 residential units and over two million square metres (sq.m.) of gross floor area (GFA) for economic uses can be provided in the short to medium term.

In the medium to long term, the Government has been taking forward major land planning and development projects, including Kwu Tung North (KTN)/Fanling North (FLN) NDAs, Tung Chung New Town Extension, Hung Shui Kiu (HSK) NDA and Yuen Long South (YLS) Development.  Meanwhile, other land supply options are being studied and examined, including Tseung Kwan O Area 137, topside development at Hong Kong Boundary Crossing Facilities Island of the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge, other potential railway property development projects, etc.  It is expected that a total of over 220 000 residential units and over 8.6 million sq.m. of GFA for economic uses can be provided in the medium to long term.  The optimal use of brownfield sites is also a major direction of the land supply strategy.  By taking forward the above three projects in HSK, YLS and KTN/FLN, some 340 hectares (ha) of brownfield sites will be released.  Together with the development of adjoining areas through comprehensive planning, a total of over 940 ha of developable land is expected to be provided.

For the long-term sustainable development of Hong Kong, there is a need for the Government to adopt a visionary, pragmatic and action-oriented approach to tackle the planning issues critical to Hong Kong's future, and to formulate a robust territorial development strategy in the light of the latest planning circumstances and challenges ahead.  PlanD commissioned the "Hong Kong 2030+" Study in 2015 to update the territorial development strategy.  Three building blocks, namely "Planning for a Liveable High-density City", "Embracing New Economic Challenges and Opportunities" and "Creating Capacity for Sustainable Growth", and two long-term strategic growth areas, namely the East Lantau Metropolis and New Territories North, are proposed.  It is expected that about 1 700 ha of land can be provided to meet future needs in housing, economic and social developments; to provide space for improving liveability; to provide land required for economic activities; and to meet additional housing needs arising from the large-scale urban redevelopment.

With limited resources and given that comprehensive planning is relatively more cost-effective, the Government has considered the circumstances of different land and areas, and prioritised land utilisation and development accordingly.  Resources have been devoted to expediting the implementation of a series of measures for increasing land supply as mentioned above.  At the same time, the Government is working to streamline the development processes and continues to implement the Pilot Scheme for Arbitration on Land Premium to facilitate private development/redevelopment, with a view to increasing the land and floor space supply in Hong Kong effectively and continuously.  Nevertheless, there is no single measure that can both address the existing land shortage and provide sufficient land in a sustainable manner for meeting all the short-, medium- and long-term development needs.  Therefore, it is important for us to continue to adopt a multi-pronged, robust and flexible approach, in order to increase land supply and create development capacity wisely.  In reality, in order to meet the needs for Hong Kong's future development, all the current measures for land supply are indispensable.  We must also keep on exploring any feasible land supply options.

Note 1: This type includes Grade A offices in CBDs.  In the short term (i.e. 2023), the CBD is defined as Sheung Wan, Central, Wan Chai, Causeway Bay and Tsim Sha Tsui (including West Kowloon Reclamation to the south of Jordon Road).  In the medium to long term, the East Kowloon CBD2 developments (i.e. Kai Tak Development and Kowloon Bay and Kwun Tong Business Areas) are added to the supply of CBD Grade A Offices.

Note 2: This refers to non-Grade A offices, and business activities involving no industrial production that have flexible floor space requirements.  General types of research and development (R&D) as well as testing and certification are under this category.

Note 3: This type includes manufacturing, warehousing and other industrial activities, but excludes "Special Industries".  General logistics/warehousing, covering general storage and warehousing uses, is subsumed under this category.  Facilities for modern logistics are not included and should be subsumed under "Special Industries".  The demand estimate is mainly due to the general logistics/warehousing.

Note 4: This type includes industries that have unique locational and/or operational requirements having regard to specific environmental or other considerations.  They usually require purpose-built premises of more rigid building specifications (e.g. higher loading, higher ceiling, larger floor plate, highly reliable electricity supply with back-up supply, and dust free environment).  Data centres, modern logistics, and special types of R&D as well as testing and certification are subsumed under this category.

Ends/Wednesday, May 17, 2017
Issued at HKT 14:30

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