LCQ14: Handling of planning applications for developments which may create wall effect

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 (November 4):


Members of the public have expressed grave concern about the wall effect created by development projects in recent years. Recently, the development project at King Wah Road, North Point, has aroused objection from quite a number of residents and organisations in North Point district due to its possible wall effect. Moreover, urban development density, the opinions provided by the Planning Department (PlanD) to the Town Planning Board (TPB) and the various assessment reports submitted by the developers concerned in respect of their planning applications have also caused considerable repercussions among members of the public. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(a) given that I have proposed that the Government should study the option of transfer of plot ratio, whereby developers are allowed to transfer their approved gross floor areas to be developed in urban areas to other relatively remote areas, so as to balance development densities, whether the Government has studied such an option; if so, of the study result; if not, whether it will consider conducting the study;

(b) whether PlanD had, in the past five years, provided opinions concerning planning applications for development projects to TPB in accordance with the guideline in the Hong Kong Planning Standards and Guideline (HKPSG) that "taller buildings should be located inland, with lower developments on the waterfront, to avoid dominating the harbour and increase permeability to the waterbody", and whether it had requested TPB to follow that guideline; if not, whether it had assessed if HKPSG would be degraded to a "window-dressing policy"; and

(c) whether the Government will consider providing financial support to the organisations concerned for conducting traffic impact assessments and air flow assessments in respect of development projects, with a view to obtaining clearer and more impartial assessment results?



(a) Given Hong Kong's precious land resources and the huge difference in land value between various regions, it is very difficult to implement the concept of "transfer of plot ratio", which could also cause grave public concern. In view of this, "transfer of plot ratio" is only applicable under the heritage conservation policy endorsed by the Executive Council in 2007 in a limited way on a case-by-case basis. We have no plan to extend the practice of "transfer of plot ratio" to other policy areas.

(b) In accordance with the Hong Kong Planning Standards and Guidelines (HKPSG), the planning standards and guidelines should be applied with a certain degree of flexibility, having regard to factors such as land use demand, local conditions, development constraints, etc. They should not be applied in isolation and cross-reference between standards and guidelines should be made whenever necessary.

The Urban Design Guidelines in the HKPSG include the design guidelines for waterfront sites. With respect to building height along the waterfront, the relevant guidelines mainly cover three aspects, namely, that "taller buildings should be located inland, with lower developments on the waterfront", "diversity in building mass should be encouraged to avoid a monotonous harbour image", and "a varying building height profile should be created".

Since the formulation of the above guidelines in 2003, the Planning Department (PlanD), when processing relevant planning applications, will refer overall to these principles and advise the Town Planning Board (TPB) on such principles and other relevant urban design considerations, so that TPB can consider them along with other relevant planning considerations. As stated in the Urban Design Guidelines, it is essential that any urban design concept has to be specifically tailored to meet development needs. The urban design guidelines should hence not be over-restrictive and prescriptive, but encourage innovative design. TPB is well aware of these principles.

(c) Under the existing practice, planning applications and all relevant professional impact assessments submitted by applicants are forwarded to the professional government departments concerned. In making their professional and objective comments, the departments concerned will consider these impact assessments, and examine whether the proposed development will cause any obvious adverse impact, such as in terms of traffic or air ventilation, on the environment of the application site on the basis of their own statistics and professional analyses. The professional comments and recommendations made by these departments will be included in the set of planning application documents for TPB's consideration. Where necessary, representatives from the departments concerned will be invited to attend TPB meetings to give their views and answer members' inquiries about the impact assessments submitted by applicants.

The above mechanism ensures that TPB is able to obtain clear and impartial professional comments. We do not consider it necessary for the Government to offer financial support to organisations concerned to conduct impact assessments.

Ends/Wednesday, November 4, 2009
Issued at HKT 17:30