Business to benefit with streamlined development procedures



The Secretary for Planning and Lands, Mr John C Tsang, said today (April 27) that the Government was making efforts to streamline development procedures so as to further enhance Hong Kong's business and investment attractions.


Addressing a conference in Shenzhen jointly organized by the Hong Kong Institute of Planners and the Urban Planning Society of China, Mr Tsang said seeking a right balance between adequate public participation and implementation efficiency had always been the cornerstone of the local town planning and land development system.


He emphasized that increasing the transparency of development procedures and putting in place an efficient mechanism would be conducive to Hong Kong's future development.


"A proper planning and land administration system is vital to decisions of foreign investments in Hong Kong," Mr Tsang said.


"To attract investors to set up production lines, trading firms and multi-national corporation regional headquarters in Hong Kong or the Mainland, especially after China's accession to the World Trade Organisation, apart from providing adequate land resources and infrastructure there is also a need for greater transparency of the development procedures as well as a fair and efficient mechanism."


The local planning and land administration system, Mr Tsang noted, had four special features, built upon a deference to the rule of law.


Firstly, private-sector developments in Hong Kong are entirely market-oriented. Sites are zoned to indicate general uses to allow flexibility to meet market demand. As far as the quantity and timing of land supply is concerned, the Government has been dealing with it in as flexible a manner as possible.


There is an application system, launched since 1999, under which developers can trigger the sale of some sizable sites through open auctions.


Secondly, there is high transparency and a clear legislative framework. Most planning and land information is open to the public. There are consultation and statutory objection procedures to allow the public to express their views.


Thirdly, the system provides for stability and consistency, as most planning procedures are statutory which cannot be altered without reasons by the Government or decision-making bodies.


Fourthly, all organizations and investors, no matter they are public or private, local or overseas, are bound by the same set of rules and regulations.


Speaking at the same conference, the Director of Planning, Mr Bosco Fung, said amendments to the Town Planning Ordinance, which would help streamline development procedures and increase efficiency, would be conducted in phases.


He revealed that the concerned groups would be consulted in the coming months about the first phase amendments, involving more streamlined processing of planning applications, a more open planning system and more effective control of unauthorised developments.


"After that, we will present the bill to the Legislative Council early next year," he said.


"I believe the bill will help further strengthen Hong Kong's competitiveness and improve our business environment, putting us in a better position to seize new opportunities with the Mainland's accession to WTO."


End/Saturday, April 27, 2002