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LCQ15: Temporary work depots

Following is a question by the Hon Alan Leong Kah-kit and a written reply by the Secretary for Development, Mrs Carrie Lam, in the Legislative Council today (July 13):

Question:

Recently, it has been reported that three "open spaces" sites at Wang Kwong Road and Wang Chiu Road near Richland Gardens (respectively located at its western, northern and north-eastern sides) in Kowloon Bay, have been occupied by the Highways Department (HyD) as temporary work depots for a long time, causing air and noise pollution. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(a) of the locations of all temporary sites or depots of government works in the territory at present, the residential premises (estates, buildings or villages) nearest to such sites, the dates on which they were first deployed for such uses and the initial expiry dates for such deployments, the subsequent dates on which such deployments were extended each time, as well as the expiry dates of the current deployments of such sites (to be listed in the table attached);

(b) as the aforesaid three sites have been used by HyD as temporary work depots since 1996 and 2002 respectively, among which the longest duration of use to date has reached 15 years, whether the Lands Department has looked for alternative sites in other locations in the interim to relocate the aforesaid temporary work depots; if it has, of the details; if not, the reasons for that;

(c) as it has been learnt that the aforesaid two sites located respectively on the northern and north-eastern sides of Richland Gardens have been zoned as "district open spaces" since 1986, but the Leisure and Cultural Services Department had all along not yet developed the sites for leisure use over a period of almost 30 years in the past, of the reasons for that;

(d) as it has been reported that some residents in Richland Gardens are deeply discontented that the aforesaid sites have been used as temporary work depots for a long time instead of being developed for leisure use, of the measures of the authorities to respond to the requests of such members of the public;

(e) as road maintenance works are one of the long-term and recurrent undertakings of HyD, and the construction plant and various materials (including sand and concrete) of such works must be stored in work depots in different areas to facilitate deployment and for use in handling contingencies, whether the Government will set up long-term and fixed work depots for HyD; if it will, of the details; if not, the reasons for that; and

(f) whether the authorities have in place a mechanism or guidelines for assessing the impact on the daily lives of the residents nearby when selecting the locations of temporary sites or depots of government works; if they have, of the details; if not, whether they will consider establishing such mechanism or guidelines?

Reply:

President,

Apart from the land on which the works associated with public works projects are located, works departments may also require land outside the project area for temporary storage of materials, parking of works vehicles and machinery, and operation grounds for site personnel.

Works departments will submit requests to Lands Department (LandsD) with due regard to the need of individual projects. LandsD will then help the works departments identify suitable lands. To optimise land uses, LandsD normally proposes sites with limited development potential (e.g. the space under bridges) or which are yet to be developed, for use as temporary work depots. Before granting the land allocations or renewing the land allocations to the works departments for temporary usage, LandsD will consult the relevant government departments, including the respective District Offices to canvass the views of the local community. Furthermore, LandsD will impose suitable conditions into the temporary land allocations as may be required by the government departments, for compliance by the works departments.

My consolidated reply to the six parts of the question is as follows:

(a) In view of the large number of public works projects and the fact that the number of temporary land allocations will vary according to the progress of these projects, LandsD estimates that about 760 temporary land allocations have been granted to works departments at the present moment. However, LandsD does not have the detailed information of the temporary land allocations in hand. The respective District Lands Offices are not able to check the details of individual land allocation records and compile the necessary information within such a short time.

(b) The three sites near the Richland Gardens referred to in the question have been allocated to Highways Department (HyD) since 1996 and 2002 respectively for use as temporary work depots for the road maintenance project in Kowloon East. LandsD has not received any objection to the proposed land allocations when consulting the departments concerned.

HyD has selected these sites because of their central location in East Kowloon. The nearby run-ins also allow construction vehicles quick access to the trunk roads in East Kowloon and, in particular, enable speedy mobilisation of workers to sites for carrying out emergency works. As large amount of road maintenance works are carried out in Kowloon East each year involving the use of many construction plant, vehicles and materials etc and a large number of construction personnel, temporary work depots with sufficient size is required to support the maintenance operation.

(c) Although two of the sites located at the northern and north-eastern sides of Richland Gardens have been zoned as "district open spaces", according to the information provided by the Leisure and Cultural Services Department, there is no urgent need for the open space project as there are quite a number of recreational facilities available to the public in the vicinity, including Kowloon Bay Park, Kowloon Bay Sports Ground, Kowloon Bay Playground and Kwun Tong Road Children's Playground.

(d) The Administration has only allowed HyD to continue to use the three sites as its temporary work depots after careful consideration. To address the concerns of the residents of Richland Garden over the environmental impact of these temporary sites, HyD has reviewed the situation and requested the contractors to strengthen the relevant mitigation measures, including relocation of the storage areas away from the residential premises as far as possible; proper covering of stored materials to prevent dust emission; avoiding the carrying out of noisy operations in the early morning or at night; regular inspection of the drainage system to prevent accumulation of stagnant water; and carrying out more planting to beautify the environment. HyD has also met with the representatives of the Richland Gardens' residents on June 23 to brief them on the improvement measures implemented at the three temporary work depots. HyD will continue to liaise closely with them to understand and address their concerns.

(e) Apart from making use of temporarily allocated lands as work depots, HyD has been considering the possibility of establishing permanent work depots. However, many lands in the urban areas are either already designated for other uses or developed. It is very difficult to identify sites that are suitable for use as permanent work depots while meeting HyD's requirements. HyD has also considered utilising the spaces under bridges. However, such spaces are usually subject to area and height constraints or are already used for greening purpose. They are therefore not suitable for use by the East Kowloon road maintenance project.

HyD will continue to actively explore the possibility of establishing permanent work depots. Given the scarcity of land in Hong Kong, difficulty is anticipated in finding permanent work sites. Where circumstances permit, HyD will opt to use lands that are yet to be developed for use as its temporary work depots, as this is a more effective and flexible way of utilising vacant government land resources.

(f) On receiving a temporary land allocation application, LandsD will consult the relevant government departments (including Home Affairs Department and Environmental Protection Department, etc). These departments will consider carefully such factors as the impact of the temporary land use on the nearby traffic as well as the ambient air and noise situation.  LandsD will only allocate the site to the works department for temporary use after securing agreement of the departments concerned. LandsD will also include suitable conditions in the temporary land allocation as may be requested by the government departments, with a view to minimising the impact of the temporary work depots on the public.

Ends/Wednesday, July 13, 2011
Issued at HKT 17:52

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