Following is a question by the Hon Alan Leong and a written reply by the Secretary for Development, Mrs Carrie Lam, in the Legislative Council today (May 16):
It has been reported that the Liaison Office of the Central People's Government in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (LOCPG) purchased a vacant site of 11 750 square feet (sq ft) at 21 Tai Tam Road at a cost of $167 million in 2007; and if calculated at a plot ratio of 1.4, the permissible gross floor area would be 16 450 sq ft, translating into an average price of $10,140 per square foot of floor space. It has also been reported that an "in-situ land exchange" for LOCPG was approved by the Lands Department (LandsD) in July 2010 to merge an adjacent vacant government lot and a slope with the aforesaid vacant site to form a larger site, adding an area of 2,110 sq ft, and LOCPG thus obtained a bonus gross floor area of about 3 000 sq ft, yet the Government charged LOCPG a land premium (premium) of only $9,980,000 (i.e. the premium per square foot of the bonus floor area being only about $3,300). Under the current policy, developers applying to LandsD for "in-situ land exchanges" are required to meet some criteria (including where the Government land in question is incapable of reasonable separate alienation or development, where it has no foreseeable public use for the Government land concerned, and that the developers are required to pay full market value premium and this results in a financial return to the Government no less favourable than by separate alienation). In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:
(a) whether the Government has assessed if the government land involved in the in-situ land exchange application related to the aforesaid site at Tai Tam Road is incapable of reasonable separate alienation or development and has no foreseeable public use; if the assessment result is in the affirmative, of the details; if the assessment outcome is in the negative, whether LandsD has violated the in-situ land exchange policy;
(b) given that it has been reported that the selling prices of luxurious homes around Tai Tam Road were about $15,000 per square foot in 2010, the $9,980,000 received by the Government from LOCPG as premium was obviously lower than the market value, and there is no resale restriction in the new land lease conditions, how the Government's approval of the aforesaid land exchange arrangement can fulfill the policy requirement that the developers are required to pay full market value premium; of the relevant formula and the details for the calculation of the premium;
(c) given that it has been reported that in reply to media enquiries, the Development Bureau pointed out that the relevant land lot and the extension thereto had been approved in 2009 by the Town Planning Board (TPB), which also granted planning permission for the owner to construct a building consisting of a seven-storey residential block and a two-storey ancillary car park on the lot, and that the owner had made an in-situ land exchange application to LandsD for merging the government land concerned with the land lot for combined development, so as to implement the planning permission granted in 2009, and the Government had already charged a full market value premium, of the details of the approval and planning permission granted by TPB in 2009 for the relevant land lot and the extension thereto;
(d) of the number of in-situ land exchange applications made by the offices of the Central People's Government in Hong Kong in the past years; among such applications, the number of those approved by LandsD, and set out in table form the details of all the approved projects (including the land lots, the areas of the government land involved, the planned uses, as well as the total amount of premiums charged and the methods of calculation); and
(e) of the respective total number of in-situ land exchange applications approved by LandsD in each of the past five years, and set out in table form the details (including the land lots, the areas of the government land involved, the planned uses, as well as the total amount of premiums charged and the methods of calculation) of all the approved projects?
The site at 21 Tai Tam Road was granted by the Government in 1949. Subsequently in 1962, the Government granted a small part of the neighbouring Government land to the then owner of the lot. The total area of the lot amounts to about 1,091.6 square metres. The use as stipulated in the lease is "private residential", and there was no restrictions on the gross floor area, number of storey, site coverage or alienation. According to records at the Land Registry, the lot was the subject of a number of transactions before it was acquired by the Liaison Office of the Central People's Government in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region in November 2007 from the market. Please refer to part (c) of the reply below with regard to the planning application in relation to the lot.
Subsequently, the lot owner submitted to the Lands Department (LandsD) an "in-situ land exchange" application to include the relevant Government land into the lot for development for the purpose of implementing the planning permission obtained in 1997 and the Class A amendment obtained in 2009 (referred to altogether as "the planning permissions" hereunder). In July 2010, LandsD applied additional conditions with reference to the content of the planning permissions to the land exchange documents to be granted to the lot owner in accordance with applicable procedures, including the erection of a block of flats for private residential purposes not exceeding seven storeys and two storeys of ancilliary carports. The maximum gross floor area of the block shall not exceed 1 803.2 square metres and the site coverage shall not exceed 20 percent. The total area of the lot after the land exchange is 1,288 square metres.
My reply to the various parts of the question is as follows:
(a) As mentioned in my response to a Member's oral question at the Legislative Council sitting on June 4, 2008, the Government will process applications for "in-situ land exchanges" in order to allow the implementation of the approved plans/schemes within the statutory planning framework whilst upholding the situation of optimisation of the use of land. Some criteria have to be fulfilled for such applications, including where the Government land involved in "in-situ land exchanges" is incapable of reasonable separate alienation or development; where it has no foreseeable public use for the Government land concerned; and that the applicants are required to pay full market value premium and this results in a financial return to the Government no less favourable than by separate alienation. The "in-situ land exchange" case of 21 Tai Tam Road was in line with the above criteria.
(b) In assessing the land premium for the subject land exchange, the professional estate surveyors of the LandsD had, in accordance with the existing land exchange arrangements, assessed the full market value premium reflecting the difference between the land value of the lot under the lease conditions before the land exchange and that after the land exchange. As explained above, as new conditions were imposed in the lease conditions after the land exchange, so the premium was not assessed solely on the basis of additional gross floor area after the land exchange.
As mentioned in my main reply, the lot was acquired by the present lot owner from the market, instead of by a direct land grant to the lot owner concerned for a specific use. There is no restriction before the land exchange with regard to alienation. Taking into consideration the development under the planning permissions, there is no reason to apply restriction on alienation to the conditions of exchange.
(c) The subject site falls within an area zoned "Residential (Group C)5" on the Tai Tam and Shek O Outline Zoning Plan (OZP). According to the Notes of the OZP, development within the area is subject to a building height (BH) restriction of seven storeys over one storey of carports or the height of the existing building, whichever is the greater. For development with seven domestic storeys, the maximum plot ratio (PR) and site coverage (SC) are restricted to 1.4 and 20 percent respectively. Based on the individual merits of a development or redevelopment proposal, minor relaxation of the PR, SC and BH restrictions stated above may be considered by the Town Planning Board (TPB) on application under section 16 of the Town Planning Ordinance.
A planning application for minor relaxation of the BH restriction was approved by the Metro Planning Committee of the TPB in December 1997 (i.e. seven domestic storeys resting on one level of carports, one level of ramp and one level of plant rooms cum entrance lobby), subject to the following conditions:
(i) the submission and implementation of landscaping proposals to the satisfaction of the Director of Planning or of the TPB. The relevant submission was made in September 2011;
(ii) the permission should cease to have effect in December 2000 unless prior to the said date either the permitted development was commenced or this permission was renewed. The relevant building plans for the development were approved by the Building Authority in 1998. According to the TPB Guidelines No. 35B, the proposed development is considered as commenced and the planning permission is still valid.
In December 2009, the Planning Department received a set of building plans circulated by the Buildings Department in respect of a development scheme for seven domestic storeys resting on one level of carports and one level of ramp cum entrance lobby, with a PR and SC of 1.4 and 20 percent respectively. This development proposal was generally in line with the approved scheme, except with some Class A amendments to the approved scheme which do not require separate approval from the TPB. The set of building plans were approved by the Building Authority in January 2010.
(d) According to LandsD's records, there has not been any "in-situ land exchange" application submitted in the capacity of an institution of the Central People's Government in Hong Kong. The land exchange application in question was made by the Liaison Office of the Central People's Government in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region in its capacity of the owner of a private lot (acquired from the market).
(e) Regarding the land exchange applications completed by the Government, the relevant land exchange documents are registered at Land Registry and are accessible by the public. Members of the public can also examine the summaries of the relevant cases from LandsD's website.
Ends/Wednesday, May 16, 2012
Issued at HKT 17:11