Following is a question by the Hon Claudia Mo and a written reply by the Secretary for Development, Mr Paul Chan, in the Legislative Council today (February 6):
Part of the 4th floor podium of Metro Harbour View, a private housing estate in Tai Kok Tsui, shall be designated under a land lease condition as a public open space (POS), which is required to be made available for public use. In the past five years, the owners' incorporation (OC) of the housing estate has been striving for turning the POS into a private open space. The former Secretary for Development (SDEV) stated openly that the case "warranted exceptional consideration", and considered the OC's request for waiving the aforesaid land lease condition (waiver request) justified because the OC had real difficulties in managing the POS and handling the security issues, and there was sufficient POS in the vicinity of that housing estate for use by residents in the district. Yet, the granting of the waiver by the authorities is subject to the support of the Yau Tsim Mong District Council, Yau Tsim Mong West (YTMW) Area Committee and Town Planning Board. However, the request put forward by the OC for turning the POS into a private open space by way of a waiver has failed to secure the support of the YTMW Area Committee. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:
(a) whether it has taken any action so far to follow up the waiver request, which the former SDEV considered justified; if it has, of the details; if not, the reasons for that; and
(b) whether it has actively communicated with the YTMW Area Committee to explain clearly to its members the special circumstances of this case and to indicate the Government’s stance of supporting the wavier request; if it has; of the details; if not, the reasons for that?
The subject of public open space (POS) in private developments, which includes the opening of these POS for public use, and the restrictions on usage as well as the management and maintenance responsibility arising from it, attracted growing public concerns since 2008. As such, the Government initiated a policy review in the same year, and outlined to the Legislative Council in January 2010 the refined arrangements for provision of POS in future private developments, as well as the administrative arrangements to deal with problems encountered in some existing POS in private developments.
After review, the Government considered that by and large, the owners' corporations or the management companies had been enabling public access to POS in their private developments. The relevant public access requirement should thus be upheld, and the Government would not take back POS on private land in private developments or assume the management and maintenance responsibility of these POS. However, there had been isolated cases whereby individual flat owners showed concerns over the issues of privacy, safety and the responsibility of managing these POS. The Government considered that for these cases, exceptional measures on compassionate grounds subject to special circumstances could be justified, but these cases must satisfy a set of criteria so as to ensure that public interest would not be inappropriately impaired.
For existing POS on private land in private developments, the Government may, on very exceptional cases and based on individual merits of each case, consider sympathetically waiving the requirement in the lease for opening certain POS for public use subject to the following criteria:
(a) it must be legally in order for the Lands Department (LandsD) to do so;
(b) a request for the waiver must be submitted by all the owners or through the owners' corporation, and subject to the terms and conditions as imposed by LandsD including the payment of the waiver fee for such waiver if granted;
(c) there are sufficient existing and planned POS in suitable locations within the district according to the Hong Kong Planning Standards and Guidelines. Also, other considerations like the location, distance and distribution of these POS should also be taken into account;
(d) in case the provision of the POS has been incorporated into the Notes of the Outlining Zoning Plan (OZP), the approval of the Town Planning Board (TPB) through the necessary statutory process for deleting the POS requirement from the relevant OZP will be required; and
(e) there is support from the relevant District Council (DC) and Area Committee (AC), in particular their understanding that a piece of POS will no longer be open to the public.
Owners or the owners' corporation of a private development may apply to LandsD if they intend to seek from the Government a waiver from the requirement for opening the POS for public use. The relevant application must satisfy the five above-mentioned criteria.
My reply to the two parts of the question is as follows:
(a) Metro Harbour View is situated on Kowloon Inland Lot (KIL) No. 11127. According to the lease of the lot, the lot owner shall provide an open space of not less than 9 800 square metres for use by the public. The relevant POS is situated on 1st floor, 2nd floor and the podium of the development, and is opened to the public from 7am to 10pm each day. As mentioned above, the Government conducted a policy review and outlined the administrative arrangements to deal with the problems encountered by existing POS in private developments in view of public concerns over the subject matter. Owners of private developments who intend to waive the POS requirement (e.g. Metro Harbour View) may deal with the matter by submitting applications under such arrangements.
To the Government's understanding, the Incorporated Owners (IO) of Metro Harbour View had contacted the Yau Tsim Mong West AC with regard to waiving the requirement for opening the POS for public use, and the matter was discussed in the said AC as well as the Yau Tsim Mong DC. The IO also applied to TPB last March to amend the Notes of the Mong Kok OZP which stipulates the provision of POS in Metro Harbour View. At a meeting in June last year, TPB agreed to defer a decision for this application, and requested the applicant to consult the DC and Yau Tsim Mong West AC before TPB's consideration of the application. It is understood that the AC discussed the matter once again in November last year and did not support the relevant suggestion.
(b) During the past few years, the matter of the POS at Metro Harbour View was discussed at the Yau Tsim Mong DC, its committee, as well as the Yau Tsim Mong West AC. Government representatives were present at a number of these meetings to explain the review conducted by the Government on this subject as well as the criteria in considering waiving the requirement for the owners of Metro Harbour View to open its POS to the public. The most recent meeting attended by Government representatives was the Yau Tsim Mong DC meeting held last December. In addition, the Government has been explaining the administrative arrangements and the relevant criteria to the IO of Metro Harbour View through correspondence.
Ends/Wednesday, February 6, 2013
Issued at HKT 15:00