Following is a question by the Hon Frankie Yick and a reply by the Secretary for Development, Ms Bernadette Linn, in the Legislative Council today (December 7):
With the commencement of the works in development areas such as Hung Shui Kiu/Ha Tsuen and Yuen Long South, the Government has proceeded with a large-scale resumption of brownfield sites in those areas. There are views that a considerable portion of brownfield operations, including logistics warehouses, open storage facilities and vehicle maintenance workshops, are very important for supporting the logistics industry. If the brownfield operators concerned are unable to identify sites for relocation, they will eventually be forced to close down, seriously affecting the operation of the logistics supply chain in Hong Kong. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:
(1) of the latest progress of the resumption of brownfield sites and the related clearance work, including the areas of land resumed and land to be resumed, as well as a breakdown of the number of affected operators by business; whether, over the past year, the Government assisted the affected operators in identifying sites for relocation; if so, of the area of land involved, and a breakdown of the number of operators concerned by business; if not, the reasons for that;
(2) as it is learnt that the Development Bureau (DEVB) will provide a list of usable land for reference by the affected brownfield operators, when such list will be published, and whether the DEVB will provide a one-stop service for such operators to assist them in completing the procedure for land application; and
(3) whether the Government will consider deferring the relevant land resumption work when it is unable to provide relocation sites or premises for the affected brownfield operators in a timely manner, so as to avoid disruption of the logistics supply chain?
Among a total of around 1 600 hectares of brownfield sites in the New Territories, around 60% (i.e. around 1 000 hectares) will gradually be developed for high-density housing and other uses, due to reasons such as being located within development areas, or the open-air operations thereon are incompatible with the environment and development of the neighbourhood etc. Through development, we hope to make better use of these precious land resources and enhance land use efficiency of these sites.
My reply to the question raised by the Hon Frankie Yick is as follows:
Parts (1) and (2)
Over the years, the Government has resumed and cleared about 30 hectares of brownfield sites for various development projects, involving around 400 affected brownfield operators. Regarding the types of businesses of these operators, around 120 of them are warehouses, storage or logistics businesses, around 110 are general workshops, around 70 are construction-related, around 40 are vehicle-repairing and related industries, and the remaining are from other industries including the recycling and vehicle parking industries. We expect that another 200 hectares of brownfield sites will gradually be resumed and cleared by the Government from now till 2026.
The Government will provide monetary compensation to affected business operators in accordance with prevailing policies. If they are also the owners of the relevant site(s), we will also provide compensation for the land resumed. In this regard, with the support of the Finance Committee of the Legislative Council, the Government enhanced in May 2022 the ex-gratia compensation arrangements for business operators and landowners, including relaxing the eligibility criteria on the operation duration; removing the payment ceiling of open-air business undertakings; and merging the four zones under the ex-gratia zonal compensation system into two zones.
In addition to monetary compensation, the Development Bureau (DEVB) is adopting the following measures to assist operators who wish to continue their businesses, including –
(i) arranging the Lands Department to reach out to the affected operators at the soonest possible juncture, providing them with a more concrete departure timeframe and the various means of assistance the Government could offer and to provide appropriate assistance with reference to the preference of operators;
(ii) strengthening supervision and coordination of the work of various departments in providing advice on planning and lands matters to operators, and helping them by expediting relevant application processes. With regard to cases where coordination was required, from July 2019 to the end of November 2022, the Government has assisted 21 business operators (from industries such as logistics, vehicles repairing, timber production and construction, etc.) in obtaining planning permission, involving some 20.5 hectares of relocation sites. The Government also granted waivers to 17 operators to erect structures on their relocation sites;
(iii) stepping up the consolidation and provision of reference information to business operators on sites that are more likely feasible in accommodating brownfield operations. Our target is to provide such information by the first quarter of 2023. If affected business operators are interested in considering these sites, the DEVB will coordinate relevant departments to provide assistance based on the directions I just mentioned;
(iv) identifying more suitable government land for letting specifically to affected brownfield operators for short-term tenancy. From December 2020 to November 2022, the Government has granted eight sites with a total area of 18 500 square metres, and is processing the tender of another three sites (with uses being industrial, open storage, vehicle repairing workshops, and warehouses) with a total area of about 4 500 square metres; and
(v) taking forward the development of multi-storey buildings for modern industries, and take the opportunity to require enterprise(s) developing these buildings to set aside some floor space for the Government to take up. The Government will take the lead and lease the designated floor space to affected brownfield operators for a specific period at a rental comparable with the prevailing market rental of existing brownfield sites, so as to assist their operation in a more land-efficient manner and facilitate upgrading of their operations. We will commence the tendering of the first batch of five sites at Hung Shui Kiu and Yuen Long from next year onwards.
There is a need for the Government to continue pressing ahead with various land supply initiatives to address the needs of society for housing and economic development. In practice, when proceeding with land clearance work, where the works programme allows, we will defer the date of clearance as far as possible, for instance allowing business operators to continue occupying sites with land ownership reverted to the Government until the actual departure deadline rent-free, depending on the works programme. Regarding disbursement arrangements, the DEVB will, as one of the measures in the legislative amendments to streamline development processes, specify that the Government may commence the arrangement to revert land ownership and disbursement of compensation as early as possible in future, after being authorised in accordance with statutory processes in the relevant land resumption plan, without having to wait for authorisation of expenditure for works, with a view to enhancing the current practice of making disbursement only nearer the time when the business operators depart. Overall speaking, we will strive to implement the measures to take forward the policy directive of "providing monetary compensation in parallel with facilitation service", and step up the handling of cases to provide the necessary assistance to operators.
Ends/Wednesday, December 7, 2022
Issued at HKT 17:05