Following is a question by the Hon James To Kun-sun and a written reply by the Secretary for Development, Mrs Carrie Lam, in the Legislative Council today (March 9):
Since 2007, the Government has reviewed in a step-by-step manner the Outline Zoning Plans (OZP) of various districts and made suitable amendments to the development parameters of the OZPs, including the incorporation of building height and other development restrictions. Recently, some organizations have relayed to me that the building height restrictions imposed by the Government on lands zoned for "Government, Institution or Community" (GIC) uses are tighter than those on lands zoned for residential and commercial uses when the Government revises the OZPs concerned. These organizations have also complained about the severe lack of land in urban areas zoned for social welfare uses. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:
(a) given that the Secretary for Development has indicated that in "reviewing the building height restrictions on lands of different use in various districts... will consider a number of factors, including the topography, site formation level, existing land use zonings...", whether the Government will, apart from the aforesaid factors, consider other ones (including the community's need for social welfare facilities) when reviewing the restrictions on lands zoned for GIC uses;
(b) given that some organizations have relayed to me that in reviewing the OZPs, the Government has not conducted any public consultation, nor has it consulted the stakeholders when drawing up building height restrictions on lands zoned for GIC uses, whether the Government will step up consultation work in response to such demand, and consult the local communities before revising the OZPs;
(c) given that some organizations have relayed to me that while the population of Hong Kong has increased in recent years, land available for use by social welfare organizations (especially in Kowloon) is insufficient to meet the demand brought about by population growth, what measures the Government has in hand to mitigate this problem when drawing up the OZPs; whether it will review the plot ratio and building height restrictions imposed on land in Kowloon zoned for GIC uses so as to increase the permissible floor areas of social welfare facilities; and
(d) as I have learnt that the procedures of the Government Property Agency (GPA) for processing applications for use of vacant government units are very complicated, e.g. in the case of the 3rd floor of Hoi Hong Building at Tit Shu Street in Tai Kok Tsui, GPA has to try to let out the premises for commercial use first and only if no hirer is interested will it then consider allocating the premises for social welfare uses, and such practice will not help solve the problem of insufficient land for social welfare uses, whether the Government will conduct a comprehensive review of the relevant policies?
Since 2007, we have been reviewing the Outline Zoning Plans (OZP) of various districts in a step-by-step manner to meet the community's aspirations for improving the living environment. As a general principle, when imposing building height restrictions on OZPs, the building height concepts recommended in the "Urban Design Guidelines" are adopted, such as the stepped building height concept (i.e. lower buildings along the waterfront with building height increasing progressively from the waterfront to inland area), and the principle of preserving the ridgelines (i.e. adopting a height profile that a building free zone below the ridgelines would need to be maintained when viewing from key and popular vantage points). The topography, characteristics and wind environment of each district, compatibility between building clusters in a wider area, as well as the need to strike a balance between public interest and private development rights will also be considered.
My reply to parts (a) to (c) of the question is as follows:
(a) The designation of "Government, Institution or Community" (G/IC) zones on statutory OZPs serves to reflect the existing G/IC uses and reserve land for the future provision of G/IC facilities to serve the needs of the local residents and/or the wider district, region or the territory. G/IC sites also provide important breathing space and visual relief in crowded districts.
Apart from the above general principles, building height restrictions imposed on G/IC sites basically reflect the height of the existing buildings and those planned for development. In considering building height restrictions, the Government also allows flexibility so as to meet the standard design of some facilities. For example, the standard height for schools is eight storeys.
If social welfare organisations need to redevelop/expand their facilities on G/IC sites and to amend the building height restrictions to meet the requirements of their facilities, they may apply to the Town Planning Board (TPB) under section 12A of the Town Planning Ordinance (the Ordinance). Their applications will be considered based on the actual circumstances. If the redevelopment/expansion proposals are well justified and supported by the relevant bureau(x)/ department(s), the Planning Department (PlanD) may recommend to TPB to amend the building height restriction under section 7 of the Ordinance.
(b) To amend the OZPs of the various districts, the amendments will be exhibited for public inspection for a period of two months under the Ordinance. Statutory exhibition is a process of public consultation and aims to invite stakeholders to submit representations and comments on the draft OZPs. Generally speaking, PlanD will, during the exhibition period, brief stakeholders such as the District Council(s), local residents and concern groups on the proposed amendments. Therefore, the understanding in the question that the Government does not consult the public in reviewing OZPs is not correct. The existing two-month statutory exhibition period is sufficient to consult public views while maintaining the efficiency of the planning process.
Under the existing system, building plans approved under the Buildings Ordinance are not restricted by OZPs prepared or their amendments (e.g. building height restrictions newly introduced) made after the approval of the former. Therefore, we consider it inappropriate to make known to the public proposed amendments to building height restrictions before gazettal. This serves to avoid pre-emptive submissions of building plans from developers/relevant bodies defeating the purpose of imposing such restrictions.
(c) I have mentioned in my reply above the principles for imposing building height restrictions on G/IC sites. Generally speaking, the Government does not impose any restrictions on plot ratio for G/IC sites on OZPs so as to allow flexibility in the use of the land by institution or community facilities of different scale and nature.
The Hong Kong Planning Standards and Guidelines (HKPSG) provide general guidelines on land use to ensure that, during the planning process, the Government will reserve adequate G/IC zones for providing public facilities (including social welfare facilities) to meet the needs of the community. The Social Welfare Department (SWD) is responsible for reviewing the standards in HKPSG for the provision of social welfare facilities and for proposing amendments when it considers necessary.
PlanD reviews from time to time the land use of G/IC sites with reference to the HKPSG to facilitate overall Government policies and to meet the changing needs of the community. The Labour and Welfare Bureau (LWB) and SWD can also request the use of G/IC sites and Government premises. Provision of the relevant facilities is determined by the priority of relevant policies and availability of resources.
In addition, the Government may request for provision of appropriate G/IC facilities in large scale development projects (including the redevelopment projects of the Urban Renewal Authority and private developments). These large scale projects are usually carried out on sites zoned "Comprehensive Development Area" (CDA) on OZPs. PlanD will draw up the planning brief for CDA sites and provide guidelines for the preparation of Master Layout Plans. As regards the provision of social welfare facilities, PlanD will, based on the advice of LWB and/or SWD, incorporate relevant requirements into the planning brief, including the type, scale and location of the facilities. In planning and designing new housing estates, the Hong Kong Housing Authority may refer to the HKPSG and consult relevant Government departments and organisations.
(d) According to the Financial Services and the Treasury Bureau, Government properties are primarily designed for use as Government offices, public facilities or other Government uses. However, due to considerations such as location, internal layout, fittings and ancillary facilities, such properties may not be suitable for social welfare uses even if they become surplus. In fact, social welfare facilities are people-based and have to meet users' needs. Therefore, these facilities are mainly provided through land grant or individual development projects.
According to the existing policy on managing Government properties, the Government Property Agency (GPA) will try to identify alternative Government users once a vacant Government property is available. If there is no suitable Government user, GPA would arrange for letting the property in the open market on a commercial basis. The objective of this policy is to ensure optimum use of Government properties through the most efficient and cost-effective means. We have followed the aforesaid policy in handling the Government-owned properties in Hoi Hong Building and have successfully let one of them by open tender recently.
Ends/Wednesday, March 9, 2011
Issued at HKT 16:25