Following is a question by the Hon Chan Hak-kan and a reply by the Secretary for Development, Mrs Carrie Lam, in the Legislative Council today (July 13):
In 2006, the authorities planned to reserve a land for the construction of a centralised poultry slaughtering centre (PSC), and they first proposed to use the site near Shek Wu Hui Sewage Treatment Works in Sheung Shui and then proposed the site in the vicinity of Fu Tei Au Tsuen next to Man Kam To Road, which cover an area of 10 500 and 15 000 square metres respectively, but subsequently, as the risk of avian influenza in Hong Kong was kept at a low level, the Secretary for Food and Health announced shelving the centralised PSC project in June last year. To date, the aforesaid two sites have been left vacant for more than five years; and it has been learnt that at present, there are also other sites which are left vacant due to changes in policies or shelving of works projects. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:
(a) whether at present it has any specific short-term and long-term plans to use the aforesaid two sites; if it has, of the details; if not, the reasons for that;
(b) given the keen demand for public housing from residents of the North District in the New Territories, whether it will consider constructing public rental housing at the aforesaid sites or reserving them for Home Ownership Scheme flats which may be constructed in the future; if it will, of the details; if not, the reasons for that; and
(c) of the number of government sites which are vacant at present due to changes in policies or shelving of works projects; the respective areas of the sites involved and the districts in which the sites are located; of the specific plans it has in place to optimise the use of such vacant sites?
Acting Madam President,
A basic part of the work of the Development Bureau (DEVB) in management of land resources is the provision of land to meet the current and future need of bureaux/departments (B/Ds) for implementing the policies of bureaux and achieving their policy objectives. In this regard, the Planning Department (PlanD), as an executive department of DEVB, makes reference to the Hong Kong Planning Standards and Guidelines and takes account of the land requirements put forward by B/Ds, in designating the necessary land uses of suitable sites on Outline Zoning Plans (OZPs) under the mechanism of the Town Planning Ordinance (TPO). Given the broad nature of land uses on OZPs and that land uses of most sites reserved for implementation of public policies are always permitted in "Government, Institution or Community" ("G/IC") zones, PlanD will normally designate adequate land to be zoned "G/IC" on OZPs to meet the current and future land requirements of B/Ds or institutions.
I would like to point out that land is a precious resource. To optimise its use, PlanD reviews land use planning on OZPs from time to time. For instance, in view of the restructuring of Hong Kong's economy, PlanD has for years rezoned a large number of industrial sites for other uses. In recent years, PlanD has completed another round of review on "Industrial" sites and proposed a gradual rezoning of some 30 hectares of land for "Residential" use with a view to increasing housing land supply.
As for sites zoned "G/IC", PlanD from time to time reviews with the relevant B/Ds the need to retain those sites reserved for their use. If a site is no longer needed due to a change in policy or implementation plan, PlanD will consider whether it is suitable for use by other B/Ds and will follow up as appropriate. If need be, PlanD will, in accordance with the TPO, seek to amend the zoning of the site.
Besides, if a reserved site is not needed for immediate use, the Lands Department (LandsD) will consider allowing the works departments or their contractors to use it as temporary works site or construction material storage yard, or rent it out by way of short-term tenancy, such as for operation of temporary car parks, or lease them at nominal rent to non-profit or local organisations for community purposes, so as to optimise land use.
My response to the three parts of the question is as follows:
(a) The site near Shek Wu Hui Sewage Treatment Works in Sheung Shui covers an area of about 1 hectare. It was once contemplated for use as a centralised poultry slaughtering centre (PSC) by the Government. It is currently zoned for "Industrial" use on the Fanling/Sheung Shui OZP. LandsD plans to lease the site by way of short-term tenancy. Possible uses include a fee-paying public car park, goods storage yard, bus depot, plant nursery, etc. The term may be one to three years depending on the use. PlanD is considering whether the site should continue to be zoned for "Industrial" use in the long run.
The other site in the vicinity of Fu Tei Au Tsuen next to Man Kam To Road covers an area of some 1.3 hectares. It is zoned "Other Specified Uses" annotated "Poultry Slaughtering Centre" on the draft Fu Tei Au and Sha Ling OZP. As the Food and Health Bureau would not need the site for use as a centralised PSC at this stage, PlanD is contemplating the long-term use of the site. At present, LandsD does not have any plan to lease the site under short-term tenancy yet.
(b) Generally speaking, apart from land requirements, a number of environmental factors have to be taken into account in considering the rezoning of sites. The "Industrial" site in Shek Wu Hui, Sheung Shui is now not suitable for rezoning to "Residential" use given the odour problem arising from the Sewage Treatment Works. As for the site in Man Kam To, north of River Indus and designated specifically for a centralised PSC, sites in its vicinity are mainly zoned for "Open Storage" or "Port Back-up" use, for open storage of goods that cannot be stored in ordinary warehouses, and for the provision of services for cross-border trade, such as vehicle repair workshops, warehouses (except dangerous goods stores) and container vehicle parks. The area is subject to environmental and noise impact given its neighbouring "Open Storage" and "Port Back-up" uses, rendering the site unsuitable for residential use. Man Kam To Road is also a major cross-border link in the area which is not yet served by a comprehensive transport network. Man Kam To Road is still the major route for getting in and out of the area. Residential development would bring additional traffic to the area, thereby increasing the traffic load of Man Kam To Road and possibly raising traffic and safety concern for the residents. Besides, the site is far away from the town centre of Fanling/Sheung Shui. Should the site be used for residential development, provision of infrastructure (such as water, electricity, sewage pipes, etc.) and community facilities will be relatively difficult.
(c) As mentioned in the preamble, in order to optimise land use, PlanD from time to time reviews with B/Ds concerned the sites reserved for them, in order to better meet the land requirement of various B/Ds. Besides, if the reserved sites are not needed for immediate use, LandsD will consider and arrange temporary uses. These two measures aim to optimise land use, and prevent as far as possible the problem of sites being "left vacant due to changes in policies or shelving of works projects" as mentioned in the question, or that of land resources not being put to appropriate use in this respect.
In support of the work of the Steering Committee on Housing Land Supply chaired by the Financial Secretary, DEVB and PlanD have stepped up efforts to review land requirements with B/Ds which have reserved sites for future development in a more proactive manner with a view to more effectively releasing sites for housing or other development.
We do not maintain specific record of sites which are left vacant due to changes in policy or implementation plan. Currently, vacant government sites/properties include mainly former government staff quarters, vacant school premises and sites that are no longer needed for "G/IC" use. They are located in different districts in the urban area and the New Territories, of which some 39 hectares are committed or potential sites for housing development, and some 19 hectares are committed or potential sites for "G/IC" or other uses. The relevant authorities are taking the necessary follow-up actions.
Ends/Wednesday, July 13, 2011
Issued at HKT 16:48