Town Planning Board refuses rezoning requests for West Kowloon Cultural District

The Town Planning Board (the Board) today (April 8) considered three rezoning requests, proposing to rezone the West Kowloon Cultural District (WKCD) from "Other Specified Uses" ("OU") annotated "Arts, Cultural, Commercial and Entertainment Uses" to "Comprehensive Development Area (Cultural Development)" ("CDA(CD)") on the South West Kowloon Outline Zoning Plan (OZP). After very careful consideration, the Board decided not to agree to the rezoning requests.

The Board noted the proponents' concern on the legality of the "two-stage approach" adopted by the Board in the planning of the WKCD and their requests to zone the whole 40 ha site as "CDA(CD)" such that the Board can exert full control over the development of WKCD through the planning application system.

"As far as the legality of the 'two-stage approach' in concerned, the Board had in fact previously obtained independent legal advice from a London Queen's Counsel who confirmed that the approach is legally proper and within the power provided by the Town Planning Ordinance," a spokesman for the Board said.

The Board noted that the relative merits and demerits of "OU" zone and "CDA" zone had been thoroughly deliberated in May 2003 when the Board agreed to rezone the site to "OU", and again in December 2003 when the Board carefully heard the objections to the "OU" zoning when the South West Kowloon OZP was gazetted for public inspection and decided not to uphold the objections.

"Members reaffirm that given the unique nature and large scale of the development, a broad "OU" zone setting out an overall planning framework for various intended uses was considered sufficient in order to reflect the broad land uses and planning intention of the WKCD.

"A 'CDA' zoning, while providing maximum planning control, might not be appropriate given the need to allow flexibility in drawing up the development proposals before finalising the development parameters for the WKCD.

"While noting the Government's public consultation exercise on the WKCD project is still under way, Members did not see any new grounds or change in circumstances that warrant a departure from the Board's previous decision," the spokesman said.

With Government's commitment to submit the selected scheme to the Board for agreement and incorporation into the draft OZP after a Provisional Agreement has been signed by the Government with the selected proponent, the OZP will be amended and be published for public inspection in accordance with the provisions of the Ordinance. The public will have an opportunity to comment on the second stage zoning amendment. Once the OZP is approved by the Chief Executive in Council, any subsequent changes to the plan including the development parameters will require the Board's approval and will be republished for public inspection and comment.

The Board also discussed the request from one of the proponents for an open hearing in processing its rezoning request. The Board recognised that open hearing of part of the meeting is provided for in the Town Planning (Amendment) Ordinance 2004, which will soon come into operation. However, before the commencement of the Amendment Ordinance, the Board has to stick to its existing practice in handling rezoning requests. The proponent's request would have implications on other rezoning requests submitted to the Board. Should the proponent wish its case to be heard in an open meeting, a resubmission can be made under the new provisions of the Amendment Ordinance upon its commencement. The Board had already deliberated a similar request from the proponent in February 2005 and informed the proponent of its decision.

Ends/Friday, April 8, 2005