LCQ9: Vacant government sites Following is a question by the Hon Paul Chan and a written reply by the Secretary for Development, Mrs Carrie Lam, in the Legislative Council today (April 1):
After the meeting of the Task Force on Economic Challenges held in January this year, the Chief Executive indicated that if organisations which were interested in the vacant government sites available for short-term use had good proposals, they could contact the District Officers concerned for follow-up and coordination. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:
(a) of the number of applications for the lease of vacant government sites received from organisations since January this year, together with the content of the applications, the community projects for which the sites are to be used, the estimated expenditure, the number of employment places to be created and the anticipated economic benefit; when the first vacant government site is expected to be granted the earliest, and when the site concerned will be available for use;
(b) of the criteria for vetting and approving such applications; and
(c) given that the Government indicated in its reply to a question raised by a Member of this Council on February 25 this year that the Lands Department had adopted a simplified procedure to process the applications received, of the reduction in the average time needed to vet and approve such applications?
My reply to the three-part question is as follows:
(a) and (b) The provision of vacant government sites for short-term community use was introduced by the Financial Secretary in the 2008-09 Budget Speech as a measure of more flexible use of land resources. Information about the sites that are open for application has been made available to various District Offices since July last year. Up to mid-March this year, the Lands Department (Lands D) has received a total of 18 applications for vacant government sites that can be put to temporary beautification or other temporary uses. The applicants include government departments, community organisations, non-profit making bodies and schools, etc. The proposed uses include organic farms, cycling parks, non-commercial storage yards and amenity areas.
Of the applications received, 14 have been approved and the sites have been taken up by the organisations, and the other four are under processing. In addition, the Civil Engineering and Development Department has planned to carry out greening works in accordance with the Greening Master Plans for eight sites.
The measure aims at principally meeting local aspirations by making gainful use of land. Therefore, the vetting and approving criteria depend very much on whether the applications have the approval and support of relevant policy bureaux and departments. Applications by District Councils to use local vacant sites for community purposes are particularly welcome. For the time being, we have no intention to include employment opportunities or anticipated economic benefits brought about by the applications as the basis of assessment.
Nevertheless, we will consider collecting such information in due course from the organisations to which the vacant sites have been granted.
(c) The Lands D will process these applications in accordance with the existing mechanism for vetting and approving short-term tenancies or land allocations. However, a simplified procedure has been put in place for renting out the 1,000 sites or so.
Upon receipt of an application, District Lands Offices (DLOs) of the Lands D will consult the concerned departments and policy bureaux promptly. If the proposed beautification, community or other temporary use or activities are supported by the policy bureaux and government departments and receive no objection from local residents, DLOs will consider directly granting a short-term tenancy or allocating the site to the relevant department. If the purposes or activities of the applications are non-profit making and the charging of nominal rent is supported by the policy bureaux, DLOs will rent out the site to the applicant organisation at a nominal rent of one dollar. Otherwise, a market rent will be charged. As it is no longer necessary for the applications to be referred to the District Lands Conferences, applicants may know the result within a short time.
We believe that the simplified procedure can shorten the time needed for processing applications. The Lands D will review the effectiveness of the measure after it has been implemented for a period of time.
Ends/Wednesday, April 1, 2009
Issued at HKT 14:32