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Legislative Council Question 15 : "Wall effect" by the Hon James To and a written reply by the Secretary for Housing, Planning and Lands, Mr Michael Suen, in the Legislative Council

Following is a question by the Hon James To and a written reply by the Secretary for Housing, Planning and Lands, Mr Michael Suen, in the Legislative Council today (June 13):

Question:

About the problem of wall effect brought about by buildings, will the Government inform this Council:

(a) as I was informed at a meeting with the Planning Department in November 2005 that the department would request the Lands Department ("LD") to include a condition relating to allocation of non-building areas in the Conditions of Sale for a site at Hoi Fai Road in Tai Kok Tsui (Kowloon Inland Lot No. 11146) in order to ensure that space would be reserved between the buildings to be constructed on the site and the existing buildings, so as to improve air ventilation and reduce wall effect; however, such condition was not included in the Conditions of Sale published by LD recently, of the reasons for LD not including the condition;

(b) as the current guidelines on air ventilation are not legally binding, whether the Government will consider ensuring developers' compliance with such guidelines by introducing legislation or developing interim mandatory air ventilation assessment criteria;

(c) as the Government has advised that the railway companies would take into account the government guidelines on air ventilation in the planning and design of the projects, whether the Government will exercise its influence on the boards of directors of the two railway companies in order to ensure that such guidelines will not be disobeyed by the railway companies for commercial reasons; and

(d) whether it will study the impact on the surrounding environment caused by projects which are currently alleged to be buildings creating the wall effect, and whether it will identify the government lands pending for sale which may potentially be developed into buildings creating the wall effect; if it will not, the reasons for that, and how the Government helps the public to understand the impact on the surrounding environment caused by developments creating the wall effect?

Reply:

Madam President,

My reply to the four parts of the question is as follows:

(a) The Conditions of Sale for the site at Hoi Fai Road (Kowloon Inland Lot No. 11146) were included in the List of Sites for Sale by Application (commonly known as "Application List") only after they had been vetted by the relevant professional government departments. Also, the use and developable scale of the site are in compliance with the planning intention of the relevant Outline Zoning Plan (OZP) in force.

In the area around Tai Kwok Tsui and the West Kowloon Reclamation, new road networks, which converge with the east-bound and west-bound roads of the old district and directly lead to the new waterfront, provide not only transport links but also breezeways and view corridors for the area. In terms of layout design on the district level, the area does not rely on the Kowloon Inland Lot No. 11146 to serve as the ventilation opening for the area.

As regards development intensity, the plot ratio of the site is 7.5, less than that of other similar developments in Kowloon. Given the height restriction (140 metre above Principal Datum) specified in the Conditions of Sale, buildings to be erected on the site will be lower than the neighbouring ones.

(b) Under the Feasibility Study for Establishment of Air Ventilation Assessment (AVA) System completed in 2005, a set of guidelines have been recommended on how building mass, height, disposition and permeability can improve air ventilation in the pedestrian wind environment. The guidelines are qualitative in nature and not quantitative. In applying the guidelines, due consideration should be given to the uniqueness of the each individual site and other relevant peripheral factors. At present, it is not desirable to implement them compulsorily through legislation.

The guidelines have been incorporated into the Hong Kong Planning Standards and Guidelines. Air ventilation is formally recognised as one of the considerations in the planning of major development and redevelopment proposals. Proponent departments/bureaux or authorities responsible for government projects are required to undertake AVA. We will continue to encourage quasi-government organisations and private sector to include AVA in planning and design of their projects on a voluntary basis.

(c) All railway development projects are required to meet statutory requirements. For individual cases which call for consideration by the board of directors of the railway companies, government officials who act as directors on the boards will, based on the specific circumstances of each case and the justifications put forward by the railway companies, consider giving appropriate advice to the boards. It is a collective decision of the boards of directors as to how a case of this kind should be dealt with ultimately.

(d) The Town Planning Board (TPB) reviews and amends OZPs to provide clear parameters to guide individual developments. The First Schedule to the Building (Planning) Regulations specifies the maximum plot ratios and site coverage permitted for domestic and non-domestic buildings in relation to building heights. This aims to control the building bulk and space around buildings and streets.

For environmentally sensitive areas and comprehensive development areas, the TPB may require the project proponents to submit relevant environmental and visual impact assessment to ensure the scale of developments would not result in adverse environmental and visual impact.

Before a government site is included into the Application List, the Planning Department will make an appropriate assessment. In making such assessment, the Planning Department will examine development parameters such as development intensity and building height, and undertake AVA for some major sites. As mentioned above, the Conditions of Sale will be included in the Application List only after they have been vetted by the relevant professional government departments.

Details of urban design standards and AVA are set out in the Hong Kong Planning Standards and Guidelines, which is a public document for reference by the trade and the public. The entire document has been uploaded to the webpage of the Planning Department (https://www.pland.gov.hk) for public access.

Ends/Wednesday, June 13, 2007
Issued at HKT 15:31

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