New approach to speed up urban renewal



A "people-oriented" approach will be adopted in the Government's urban renewal programme. The rights of all those affected by urban renewal will be protected.


A set of guidelines on how to assess property value for the purpose of calculating compensation for land resumed under the Lands Resumption Ordinance will be issued to surveyors in future to help set up clear standards and resolve frequent disagreements on compensation for redevelopment projects.


The above was stated by the Acting Secretary for Planning, Environment and Lands, Mr Patrick Lau Lai-chiu, during the motion debate on the Urban Renewal Authority (URA)White Bill in the Legislative Council meeting today (Wednesday).


Besides, Mr Lau said, different views on the proposed compensation package have been received during the public consultation, which started on October 22 and will last until the end of December.


"While there are suggestions during the public consultation that property owners should be given compensation to purchase flats of five years old, other respondents believe that the proposed 'ten-year principle' is reasonable," he said.


"We welcome other views on the issue of compensation. We have already started to look into the possibility of setting up a review channel for ex-gratia payments."


Thanking Members' support for the objective of speeding up the urban renewal process, Mr Lau stressed that the new approach was much needed.


"The traditional urban renewal approach emphasised replacing old buildings with new ones. This approach is no longer appropriate with the pace of urban deterioration," he said.


The proposed urban renewal strategy will use a three-pronged approach to comprehensively renew old urban areas: redevelopment of old buildings, maintenance of buildings in need of repairs and preservation of buildings of historical, cultural or architectural interest.


"We shall announce for public consultation next year a proposal on a statutory preventive maintenance of buildings scheme," Mr Lau said.


"Under the proposal, the Buildings Department will carry out initial technical assessment and owners of problematic buildings will be asked to conduct necessary maintenance works.


"We will also amend the White Bill to point out clearly that preservation of buildings of historical, cultural and architectural interest is a statutory purpose of the URA," he said.


The Government's urban renewal programme aims at achieving a "win-win-win" situation bringing benefits to tenants, owners and the community, Mr Lau added.


Representatives of the Bureau and the Planning Department have briefed community organisations, the real estate sector, professional institutes and the public on the White Bill at some 20 seminars and briefing sessions, and the Government has received over 40 written submissions on the White Bill so far.


An executive summary on the urban renewal strategy study will be uploaded on the Internet next week to facilitate access by the public. They are welcome to give their views to the Planning, Environment and Lands Bureau or the Planning Department.


The Urban Renewal Authority Bill will be introduced into the Legislative Council early next year and if approved, a Provisional URA will be set up in mid-2000 to prepare for the setting up of the URA before the end of the year, Mr Lau said.


End/Wednesday, December 8, 1999