Following is a question by the Hon Fred Li and a written reply by the Secretary for Housing, Planning and Lands, Mr Michael Suen, in the Legislative Council today (July 3):
Last year, the Hong Kong Society for Rehabilitation submitted to the Town Planning Board ("TPB") a planning application in respect of a housing construction project in Kwun Tong for the elderly. Some members of the Kwun Tong District Council ("KTDC") told me that KTDC had not been consulted on the planning application, but instead, the Kwun Tong District Office sent a letter to the district council ("DC") members for the area at which the proposed project would be located and to those for nearby areas, asking them to put forward any views they might have within seven days from the date of the letter. The DC members concerned complained that they did not have sufficient time to consult the residents and community organizations which might be affected by the project. Regarding the above incident and the consultation arrangements, will the Government inform this Council:
(a) of the reasons for not conducting public consultation on the planning application but instead, sending letters to individual DC members asking them to put forward their views within a short period;
(b) how the respective public consultation procedures adopted by TPB for vetting planning applications and for revising statutory plans compare with each other;
(c) whether the Planning Department ("PD") which provides service to TPB may consult DCs directly regarding the vetting of planning applications, and whether PD will consider so consulting in the future in order to save time; if this will not be considered, of the reasons for that; and
(d) whether it will review the consultation arrangements with the aim of ensuring that those who may be affected by the projects will be fully consulted and have the opportunities to make submissions; if not, of the reasons for that?
(a) There is no provision under the Town Planning Ordinance (the Ordinance) (Cap. 131) for the Town Planning Board (the Board) to conduct public consultation on planning applications. However, the Board considers that public consultation is an integral part of the planning process. To facilitate the Board's consideration of planning applications, the Board Secretariat has adopted an administrative arrangement to seek the views of relevant government departments, including the District Office(s) concerned, and consolidate their comments for the Board's reference. The District Office(s) concerned would arrange the most appropriate means of collating views from the local residents on these planning applications. Since there is a statutory time limit of two months for the Board to consider these planning applications, the administrative consultation process must be completed within a very tight timeframe.
(b) Under the Ordinance, the Board is required to exhibit draft Outline Zoning Plans and amendments to draft Outline Zoning Plans for public inspection, and any affected persons could raise objections during the exhibition period. This is a statutory procedure that is clearly set out in law, and it is different from the administrative consultation arrangement we have adopted for planning applications.
(c) The District Office, with its well established liaison networks in the local communities and intimate knowledge of local concerns, is the most appropriate agent of the Administration to collect views on planning applications. The Planning Department will continue to work closely with the Home Affairs Department in the collection of local views.
(d) The Planning Department and the Home Affairs Department will continue to keep under review the current consultation arrangement. It is our intention to put forward amendments to the Town Planning Ordinance by the end of this year to expand the scope for greater public consultation and greater transparency in respect of planning applications and rezoning requests.
End/Wednesday, July 3, 2002