LCQ11: Mid-Levels Moratorium

Following is a question by the Hon Kam Nai-wai and a written reply by the Secretary for Development, Mrs Carrie Lam, in the Legislative Council today (February 25):


Since 1972, the Government has implemented an administrative moratorium (the Moratorium) to restrict building developments in Mid-Levels to ease traffic congestion.  On the other hand, a property developer plans to merge three sites on Seymour Road, Castle Road, and Castle Steps of Mid-Levels West for developing a residential skyscraper.  In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(a)  of the latest situation of implementing the Moratorium in the vicinity of Seymour Road;

(b)  given that the Office of The Ombudsman had pointed out in its direct investigation report published in September 2006 that the government departments concerned had not effectively implemented the Moratorium and suggested that if the need for the continuation of the Moratorium was established, the authorities "should give clear guidelines to the bureaux and departments concerned for proper implementation and close cooperation in coordination", whether the Government has formulated such guidelines as suggested; if so, of the application of the guidelines in the vicinity of Seymour Road; and

(c)  given that the completion of the above skyscraper may increase the traffic load at Mid-Levels, affect the view of nearby buildings and heighten the residential density of the area, whether the Government has formulated remedial measures and how it ensures the full implementation of the Moratorium in the future?



In June 1972, the Government introduced the Mid-Levels Moratorium (the Moratorium), an administrative measure to restrict building development in Mid-Levels, to ease traffic congestion in the area.  The Moratorium was introduced on traffic grounds.  Based on the traffic assessment and the extent of development known then, it was concluded that for the Mid-Levels area, all further sales of government land and all further modifications of government leases to permit more intensive development should be deferred.  The Moratorium, still in force, is only one of a comprehensive range of measures that the Government has taken over the past 30 years in tackling traffic congestion in the area.

Our reply to Hon KAM Nai-wai’s question is as follows:

(a) and (b)  In response to the Ombudsman's Investigation Report on the Administration of the Mid-Levels Moratorium released on September 14,  2006, the Government has pointed out that:

"The Mid-Levels Moratorium was never intended to prohibit developments/redevelopments in the Mid-Levels area, but to restrict developments/redevelopments to what is permissible under the existing leases.  As for leases that are unrestricted in terms of development rights, the Government cannot unilaterally impose a limit so long as the proposed redevelopment complies with the Outline Zoning Plan and the Buildings Ordinance.  It has to be pointed out that the Mid-Levels Moratorium, being administrative in nature, cannot override private property rights.  The Lands Department (LandsD) must respect the development rights as permitted under the lease."

Implementation of the Moratorium, like the implementation of many other public policies, involves various bureaux and departments.  The Transport and Housing Bureau is the policy coordinator and LandsD is responsible for implementation of the Moratorium, that is, to defer all sales of government land in that area and restrict development intensity to what is permissible under the existing leases.  All along, the relevant bureaux and departments have been working closely to implement the Moratorium.

According to our information, the Buildings Department had not issued any occupation permit for developments in the vicinity of Seymour Road between September 2006 and January 2009.  The Department nevertheless approved a total of 14 building plans (there were more than one building plans for some sites) and all the leases of the sites involved are unrestricted.  The Moratorium is therefore not applicable to controlling the development of these sites.

(c)  The piece of land in the vicinity of Seymour Road is primarily zoned "Residential (Group A)" on the Mid-Levels West Outline Zoning Plan (OZP) to reflect the existing high intensity residential development.  In recent years, redevelopment in the area tends to result in taller buildings.  To avoid the continuation of such a situation or buildings incompatible with the environment, to preserve the existing ridgeline and the view of Victoria Harbour, and for better control over building height in the area, the Town Planning Board (TPB) incorporated building height restrictions in a number of land use zones on the Mid-Levels West OZP in early 2008.  In addition, restrictions on maximum plot ratio were imposed for various land use zones on the OZP, including "Residential (Group B)" and "Residential (Group C) 6-8" zones, so as to preserve the characteristics of the existing buildings and ensure that the development in the area will not overload the proposed road system and other infrastructure.

With respect to the proposed residential development by the Swire Properties Ltd at Seymour Road, Castle Road and Castle Steps, notwithstanding the Town Planning Appeal Board’s approval of the relevant planning application on February 25, 2008 following the decision of the Court of First Instance on November 15, 2007, the TPB lodged an appeal to the Court of Appeal against the decision of the Court of First Instance.  The case was heard between December 3 and 5, 2008 pending the judgment of the Court.

Meanwhile, the Transport Department is conducting a traffic study for the Mid-Levels area.  One of the objectives of the study is to identify feasible transport and traffic measures to alleviate traffic problems in the area.  The study is expected to be completed in the middle of this year.  The Planning Department will refer to the findings of the study in its review of the relevant OZPs.

Ends/Wednesday, February 25, 2009
Issued at HKT 15:30