LDAC briefed on proposal to increase penalties relating to unlawful occupation of unleased government land and HKFYG’s proposed youth hostel cum youth centre
In its meeting on April 23, the Land and Development Advisory Committee (LDAC) was briefed on the Government’s proposal to increase penalties relating to unlawful occupation of unleased government land under Land (Miscellaneous Provisions) Ordinance (Chapter 28), and initiatives relating to planning and lands in the 2014-15 Budget. It was also briefed on the Hong Kong Federation of Youth Group’s (HKFYG) proposed youth hostel cum youth centre by the Policy and Project Co-ordination Unit under the Chief Secretary for Administration’s Office.
Members noted the Government’s proposal to increase penalties relating to unlawful occupation of unleased government land under the Land (Miscellaneous Provisions) Ordinance for the purpose of enhancing the deterrent effect against the relevant offences. The level of penalty for the offence of unlawful occupation of unleased land (a maximum fine of $10,000 and imprisonment for six months) has not been revised since the enactment of the Ordinance in 1972 and is no longer an effective deterrent. The situation is similar for the level of penalty for other two relevant offences, i.e. erection of unlawful structure on unleased land and unlawful removal of earth, turf or stone from unleased land. There is a need to increase the level of penalties for those various offences in order to provide an effective deterrent against such activities. This is in line with the recommendations put forward by the Audit Commission and the Public Accounts Committee of the Legislative Council in their reports published in 2012.
The key elements of the proposal include increasing the maximum fine for the relevant offences to a level commensurate with present day standard and providing the necessary punitive and deterrent effects; introducing an escalating scale of maximum fines for unlawful occupation of unleased land and unlawful erection of a structure on unleased land; as well as introducing an additional fine for unlawful occupation of unleased land.
Members supported the proposal to increase the penalties against the relevant offences with a view to enhancing the deterrent effect. They appreciated the Government’s follow-up action in response to the relevant recommendation of the Audit Commission and the Public Accounts Committee. They also agreed that the proposal would facilitate the Government to better control and manage the use of land and should be implemented as soon as practicable.
Members also considered the proposal by the HKFYG to redevelop a two-storey youth centre at Po Heung Street in Tai Po into a high-rise composite building comprising a youth hostel and the reprovisioned youth centre. The proposed youth hostel, providing 76 hostel units with capital funding fully met by Government, would be an initiative of the Youth Hostel Scheme (YHS) first announced in the 2011-12 Policy Address. The project can also put the under-utilised site into more optimal usage to better serve the youth. Members agreed that the project would contribute to the objective of YHS of meeting the aspirations of some working youths who wish to live independently from home and to accumulate savings for future development and unleashing the potential of under-utilised sites owned by non-government organisations.
In the same meeting, Members were also briefed on the key initiatives in the Budget 2014-15 relating to planning and lands. Members agreed with the relevant Budget initiatives and that the Government should continue its effort in facilitating land supply and development of business and industries.