Following is a question by the Prof Hon Patrick Lau Sau-shing and a written reply by the Secretary for the Environment, Mr Edward Yau, (in the absence of Secretary for Development) in the Legislative Council today (May 5):
A member of the trade has relayed to me that under the Town Planning Ordinance (Cap. 131), the Planning Department may take enforcement and regulatory actions only in respect of land use in areas covered by Development Permission Area Plans. Moreover, he has pointed out that some developers are suspected of violating the relevant regulation in planning to provide private columbarium niches in Chek Nai Ping village, which has been zoned as a "green belt" in the Sha Tin Outline Zoning Plan. Yet, as Chek Nai Ping village does not fall within the areas covered by Development Permission Area Plans, the Director of Planning cannot take law enforcement actions against such act of violation. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:
(a) what plans the authorities have to plug the aforesaid loophole in the legislation, so as to ensure that any person, when undertaking land developments, shall comply with the land use requirements set out in the statutory Outline Zoning Plans; and
(b) what mechanism the authorities have put in place to ensure that the buildings constructed on lands outside the areas covered by Development Permission Area Plans comply with the requirements under the Buildings Ordinance (Cap. 123)?
(a) According to section 23 of the Town Planning Ordinance (Cap 131), the Planning Authority (i.e. the Director of Planning) may take enforcement and regulatory actions in respect of land use in areas covered by Development Permission Area Plans (i.e. rural areas in the New Territories). When the Planning Department prepares Development Permission Area Plans, it will keep a comprehensive record of land use in the areas covered by the Plans, so that if the Planning Authority discovers later there is a change in land use that contravenes the Ordinance, there would be sufficient evidence to take enforcement and regulatory actions.
Areas not covered by Development Permission Area Plans are mainly the urban areas and new towns. Enforcement and regulatory actions in respect of land use in these areas are taken by the Buildings Department and other licensing departments, depending on the individual circumstances, through building plans and various licensing systems, etc. If a development is found not in compliance with lease conditions, the Lands Department will take appropriate lease enforcement actions. If the owner applies for modification of lease conditions to cope with the development, the Lands Department will consult relevant departments, including the Planning Department, when considering the application. If the application is approved, some suitable conditions, including those on land use restrictions, may be added to the lease.
The above arrangement is not a loophole in the legislation. Section 13 of the Town Planning Ordinance clearly states that approved plans shall be used by all public officers and bodies as standards for guidance in the exercise of any powers vested in them.
We have no intention to extend the enforcement and regulatory power of the Planning Authority to areas under Outline Zoning Plans not covered by Development Permission Area Plans. Since the urban areas and new towns are of high development density and have a complicated mix of building use, the land use of these areas is very complicated. If the enforcement and regulatory power of the Planning Authority against contravening developments is to be extended to cover these areas, it will be necessary to keep a comprehensive record of land use in these areas. In doing so, we will face enormous technical difficulties and require a lot of manpower resources. During discussion of the Town Planning (Amendment) Bill 2003 in the past, there were views from the public that the enforcement and regulatory power of the Planning Authority should be extended. Such views were not accepted eventually as the technical difficulties mentioned above could not be overcome.
(b) Apart from the New Territories exempted houses exempted by the Buildings Ordinance (Application to the New Territories) Ordinance (BO(ANT)O) (Cap 121), the Buildings Ordinance (Cap 123) is applicable to private buildings and building works in the territory (including areas not covered by Development Permission Area Plans). The Ordinance stipulates that, anyone who wishes to carry out building works on private land (excluding the works specifically exempted from approval by the Buildings Ordinance), has to submit building plans to the Building Authority for approval before the works are to commence. Upon receiving such an application, the Building Authority will scrutinise the building plans in accordance with the provisions of the Buildings Ordinance and its subsidiary regulations. Under section 16(1)(d) of the Buildings Ordinance, if the building works shown on the building plans would contravene any approved or draft plans prepared under the Town Planning Ordinance, the Building Authority may refuse to give his approval to the plans. To coordinate the procedures for handling building plans, a centralised processing system for building plans has been set up by the related departments, and the Building Authority will consult the Planning Department when processing applications for approval of building plans.
For the New Territories exempted houses constructed in accordance with the BO(ANT)O, the owners are required to seek approval from the Lands Department. In general, the Department will consult other relevant departments, including the Planning Department, when considering individual applications before a decision is made.
Ends/Wednesday, May 5, 2010
Issued at HKT 16:05