Following is a question by the Hon Andrew Lam and a written reply by the Secretary for Development, Mr Michael Wong, in the Legislative Council today (June 22):
Regarding the proposed legislative amendments to streamline development-related statutory processes, will the Government inform this Council:
(1) of the detailed workflow of public housing development projects implemented by the Government in the past five years (including the preliminary planning and feasibility study work, the Government's internal vetting and approval process, invitation of tenders for projects, and works procedures implemented by contractors) and the average time required for the various processes;
(2) whether it has studied the detailed workflow of private housing development projects implemented in the past five years (including the preliminary planning and feasibility study work, the Government's vetting and approval process for projects, and works procedures implemented by developers) and the average time required for the various processes; if so, of the details; if not, whether it will conduct the relevant study; and
(3) whether it has estimated, upon the passage of the aforesaid proposed legislative amendments, what processes can be streamlined and how much time can be saved in respect of the workflows of the development projects mentioned in (1) and (2) respectively?
The reply to the questions raised by the Hon Andrew Lam is as follows:
(1) At present, a series of procedures is required for the Government to turn a piece of "primitive land" (i.e. land not originally planned/zoned for housing development and/or not ready for housing works to commence) into a "spade-ready site" (i.e. land ready for commencement of works). Take the example of rezoning a single land parcel for public housing development, the Civil Engineering and Development Department (CEDD) will first conduct an engineering feasibility study to assess the impact on transport, environment, etc., which typically takes around two years. The Planning Department will then proceed with rezoning under the Town Planning Ordinance (Cap. 131) (normally requiring 11 months in accordance with the Ordinance), followed by detailed design for engineering and architectural works by the CEDD (normally requiring 18 to 24 months). If private land is involved, the Lands Department (LandsD) and relevant departments will take forward the gazettal of land resumption and works area under the Lands Resumption Ordinance (Cap. 124) and other ordinances as well as handle any objections. When the detailed designs and estimated expenditures are ready, the Government will seek funding approval from the Legislative Council (LegCo) for the works. Upon funding approval, the LandsD will commence the land resumption procedures and arrange rehousing compensation for the affected tenants or operators, and then clear the land for the CEDD to conduct site formation and infrastructural works, which would take around two to three years (depending on site conditions). After taking into account that some procedures would be carried out concurrently as far as possible, the above procedures altogether take at least six years to complete. Longer time might be required for cases of larger-scale and more complex developments.
Procedures which could be carried out simultaneously, such as the detailed design of the site formation and infrastructure works, the related statutory procedures (such as the gazettal procedures under the Lands Resumption Ordinance (Cap. 124), the Roads (Works, Use and Compensation) Ordinance (Cap. 370) and the Water Pollution Control (Sewerage) Regulation (Cap. 358AL)) and the handling of objections, would typically be carried out concurrently; the CEDD will as far as possible implement the site formation and infrastructure works in phases in order to hand over the completed parts of the site to the Housing Authority (HA) for housing development, and arrange the works of the remaining parts to be conducted in parallel with the building construction works. To streamline procedures, the CEDD has also earlier introduced a pilot arrangement of term consultancy agreement for the engineering feasibility studies conducted for the public housing developments in some of the areas, saving four to five months of purchasing time.
The Transport and Housing Bureau (THB) indicated that foundation and building works of public housing would normally take about four to five years to complete but may vary depending on the conditions of individual sites, including the ground and geological conditions of the sites, the project design and number of storeys of the building blocks, as well as other unforeseeable factors such as inclement weather, etc.
Before site handover, the HA would carry out pre-construction preparatory tasks, including formulating planning briefs, conducting detailed design, site investigation, inviting tender, etc., with a view to facilitating the commencement of the construction works as soon as the sites are handed over to the HA by the Government. Depending on the conditions of individual projects, project budget and scheme design would be considered and approved by the Building Committee of the HA about one year before site handover, followed by preparation of tendering for the foundation works. Invitation to tender for building works would be carried out while foundation works are in progress so that building works could commence immediately after the completion of foundation works. Structural works and building services installations will be carried out concurrently with the building works in order to minimise construction time.
The THB indicated that in order to compress the housing construction workflow, the HA will also adopt the Modular Integrated Construction method and innovative construction technology more widely. Besides, to cope with the increasing housing production, the HA will leverage on resources and the expertise of the construction industry by adopting a new Design and Build contract procurement model in suitable projects to allow contractors to undertake both design and construction. The HA can then allocate its existing manpower in performing design work to focus on expediting pre-construction planning of new projects with a view to awarding the construction contracts as early as possible.
(2) As for private housing, if it involves the process of producing a piece of land from "primitive" to "spade-ready", most of the procedures are similar to those mentioned in part (1). Depending on the unique characteristics and conditions of individual sites, the Government would conduct technical feasibility study as necessary, followed by the relevant statutory procedures like rezoning, road works gazettal and the handling of objections. The LandsD would be responsible for the relevant land administration process, such as land clearance and the drafting of land sale conditions. That said, unless the sites are located in New Development Areas where the Government undertakes holistic planning and site formation, Government land sale sites normally do not involve the resumption of private land, detailed design for engineering and architectural works, as well as site formation works will also be carried out by the developer. The developer, after successfully bidding a site, is required to submit applications to relevant departments in respect of its proposed development for approval, such as submission of building plans/application for the consent to commence works, etc. Upon the approval of relevant applications, the developer must complete the development within the building covenant period stipulated under lease, and obtain an occupation permit.
Apart from Government land sale sites, developers may also take forward private residential development projects via lease modification/land exchange applications to the LandsD if the proposed development is permitted under the planned use or after applying for a planning approval. The process from the receipt of a valid application to the execution of the lease involves various procedures, including the drafting of basic terms and conditions as well as premium negotiation, etc. The processing time required for each application depends on the complexity of the individual case. In this regard, the LandsD's performance pledge is to provide a provisional offer with basic terms, a rejection or an indication of in-principle agreement to the applicant within 22 weeks upon receipt of a valid application.
As one of the measures to streamline administrative procedures, for those rezoning applications approved by the Town Planning Board (TPB) under section 12A of the Town Planning Ordinance (Cap. 131) and with a set of development parameters, the LandsD would now accept request for advance processing of lease modification/land exchange before completion of the rezoning process. Besides, to expedite the supply of private housing, the Government has established two dedicated teams for taking forward private residential development projects as follows:
(a) the Land Supply Section (LSS), established by the LandsD in April 2019, is dedicated to handling sites under the Government Land Sale Programme and large-scale lease modification and land exchange cases across the territory. The LSS maintains close liaison with the applicants and proactively arranges inter-departmental meetings with a view to resolving any issues arising from the approval process expeditiously; and
(b) the Development Projects Facilitation Office (DPFO), established by the Development Bureau (DEVB) in December 2020, facilitates the processing of development approval applications for larger-scale private residential developments (with 500 flats or more) leading up to the commencement of works. The DPFO works with designated co-ordinators in the relevant bureaux and departments to ensure effective processing of applications.
(3) To further shorten the time required for development-related procedures, the DEVB is working closely with relevant bureaux and departments to give priority reviewing development processes under various legislations (including the Town Planning Ordinance (Cap. 131), the Lands Resumption Ordinance (Cap. 124), the Foreshore and Sea-bed (Reclamations) Ordinance (Cap. 127), the Roads (Works, Use and Compensation) Ordinance (Cap. 370) and the Railways Ordinance (Cap. 519)), with a view to streamlining or shortening statutory procedures of town planning applications, land resumption and gazettal of road works, etc.
We briefed the LegCo Panel on Development on the initial proposals on March 22, 2022, covering the following major directions: (a) streamlining and shortening statutory procedures (e.g. shortening the statutory timeline allowed for completion of a rezoning process); (b) avoiding repetitively executing procedures of a similar nature (e.g. minimising the need of handling similar objections to the same project under different ordinances); (c) providing an express mandate for departments to run different procedures in parallel (e.g. allowing reclamation to take place while formulating detailed land use); (d) rationalising relevant arrangements (e.g. confining rezoning applications to those applicants with control over the land concerned); and (e) streamlining miscellaneous processes for more effective use of public resources (e.g. requiring the applicant lodging a review of the TPB's decision to set out grounds for review).
We target to submit legislative amendments for these measures before the end of this year, if approved and implemented, will be able to expedite various development projects in the pipeline. Using the example mentioned in part (1) as an illustration, and assuming the relevant project would involve all procedures including study, rezoning, land resumption and funding approval, etc., if the legislative proposals are implemented, the time required for turning a piece of "primitive land" into a "spade-ready site" (currently requires at least six years) could be shortened by around two to two and a half years.
Ends/Wednesday, June 22, 2022
Issued at HKT 14:50