LCQ6: Use of land for open storage and port back-up

Following is a question by the Hon Cheung Hok-ming and a reply by the Secretary for Development, Mrs Carrie Lam, in the Legislative Council today (November 5):


Regarding the vetting and approval of applications by the Town Planning Board (TPB) for planning permission for use of land as open storage and port back-up, and the environmental problems resulting from such land uses, will the Government inform this Council:

(a)  as an applicant claimed that although he had submitted the necessary technical assessments as required, his application for planning permission was rejected by TPB on grounds that the requirement in respect of traffic volume had not been met, leaving him unsure of what to do, whether the Government knows the criteria adopted by TPB for assessing whether the traffic volume in the district concerned has met the requirement, and whether such criteria include the area of the land involved and the hourly vehicular flow;

(b)  whether the Government will recommend TPB to extend the period of planning permission for the above temporary land uses outside designated areas from the current "not exceeding three years" to "not exceeding five years" or a longer period, so as to encourage operators of open storage yards to commit resources to installing comprehensive supporting facilities; and

(c)  given that heavy goods vehicles often use private roads (such as Fairview Park Boulevard) to access areas used for the above land uses, thus causing nuisance to the residents in the vicinity, and owners of the private roads having to bear the costs for maintaining the road surface as a result of accelerated wear and tear, and resulting in frequent disputes between them and members of the transportation industry, whether the authorities will consider resuming the private roads concerned, or resolving these problems with other solutions?



My reply to the three-part question is as follows:

(a)  The Town Planning Board (TPB) will take account of the views of the relevant departments when considering planning applications.  Regarding the traffic impact of the open storage uses under application and the traffic impact assessment required, the applicants can, on their own, submit to the Transport Department (TD) the traffic impact assessments of their proposed developments and related mitigation proposals.  As for larger-scale developments of storage uses, the TD normally asks the applicants to undertake traffic impact assessment of the proposed developments and submit the findings to the department for consideration.

The TD will mainly assess whether the traffic load on the nearby roads to be generated by the applied use is acceptable and whether road safety problems will be caused.  Therefore, the main considerations include, inter alia, the scale of the proposed storage development (including the area of the site concerned), nature of the uses and the traffic volume to be generated (including vehicular traffic flow per hour) so as to ascertain whether nearby roads and their junctions still have reserve capacity to accommodate an increase in traffic.  The design and location of vehicular access and the suitability of link roads for use by heavy vehicles are other main factors to be taken in account.

(b)  To allow more flexibility in the use of land so as to meet economic needs, there is a provision for planning application for temporary uses in the Notes of the OZPs for the rural areas, even such uses are not Column 2 uses for the specific land use zones.  Since 1999, the maximum approval period for such temporary uses has been extended from 12 months to three years.  These temporary uses, which are largely not in line with the long-term planning intention of the area, may cause environmental nuisances, higher flooding risks and traffic problems.  We believe that the three-year period has struck a better balance between proper control and flexibility to meet the interim needs of the trade; and to provide incentive for the applicant to invest on the improvement measures required under the approval conditions of the planning permission.

Applicants may, however, apply for renewal upon expiry of the planning permission and the TPB has adopted a pragmatic approach in considering such applications based on individual merits.  Under the existing practice, the TPB will generally give favourable consideration to these renewal applications provided that there have been no material change in planning circumstances (e.g. implementation of the long-term development of the area concerned has yet to be confirmed) since the previous approval was granted; the applicants have demonstrated genuine efforts in compliance with the approval conditions of the previous planning applications; and there have been no adverse departmental comments and no local objections.  The relevant criteria are clearly set out in Town Planning Board Guidelines for Application for Open Storage and Port Back-up Uses under Section 16 of the Town Planning Ordinance (TPB PG-No.13E).  Operators may make their business decisions with reference to the guidelines.

(c)  The Government will generally not resume private land to resolve disputes over the use of roads between users and owners of private roads.  Resumption of private land will only be considered for public purpose in accordance with the relevant statutes.  For example, the site concerned is required for carrying out of public infrastructure works.

Regarding the possible traffic problems to be caused by the use of private roads, the TD will closely monitor the conditions of government roads that connect individual private roads and the traffic of the surrounding areas, and liaise with District Councils and the local community.  More roads will be built or traffic management measures implemented for government roads when and if necessary.  Proposals on traffic management will also be presented to the owners of private roads so as to improve the traffic of the district as a whole.

In addition, to meet the demand for open storage/port back-up uses, the Government will provide related infrastructure facilities at suitable locations or explore ways to improve them, such as carrying out road and drainage improvement works.  The road improvement works undertaken around Ha Tsuen (including Ha Tsuen Road, Ping Ha Road and Tin Ha Road) is a case in point.

Ends/Wednesday, November 5, 2008
Issued at HKT 15:08