Following is a question by the Hon Wong Ting-kwong and a reply by the Secretary for Development, Mrs Carrie Lam, in the Legislative Council today (January 20):
It has been reported that the Government will launch new measures to accelerate the revitalisation of industrial buildings, and the Lands Department (Lands D) will set up a dedicated team with about 10 members to provide one-stop service to process all applications for redevelopment, conversion and change of use of industrial buildings starting from the first of April this year. Government departments such as the Fire Services Department, Transport Department and Food and Environmental Hygiene Department will be required to reply with their views on the applications within two weeks. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:
(a) of the composition and structure of the aforesaid dedicated team, and what steps are included in the procedure for processing applications through the one-stop service;
(b) of the estimated time saved under the new procedure as compared with the existing procedure, and how the new procedure processes applications which are more complicated; and
(c) given that there have been reports that Lands D will publish a new Practice Note before April this year to set out the details of conversion which may be accorded flexibility subject to compliance with existing legislation, of the contents of the Practice Note and in what ways the Practice Note will be published to ensure that relevant parties will be duly informed of its contents?
In his Policy Address delivered in October last year, the Chief Executive announced a package of measures to facilitate redevelopment of old industrial buildings and encourage wholesale conversion of industrial buildings. The objective is to provide suitable land and premises to meet Hong Kong's changing economic and social needs, including those of the six economic areas proposed by the Task Force on Economic Challenges earlier on.
Since the announcement of the new measures, we have been earnestly preparing for their launching on April 1 this year. In the past few months, we have approached various business groups, professional bodies and local organisations to introduce the new measures and to listen to their views. They include the Legislative Council, District Councils, political parties, business groups, professional bodies, etc. Meanwhile, Development Bureau has been liaising with the relevant bureaux and departments regarding the implementation details, so as to ensure a smooth and effective implementation of the new measures.
My reply to the three-part question is as follows:
(a) The Lands Department (Lands D) will set up a dedicated team to centrally process applications for wholesale conversion or lease modifications for redevelopment of industrial buildings under the new measures. The team will come into operation on April 1, 2010 and will have about 10 members, including estate surveyors, solicitors and officers from other grades, who report direct to the Chief Estate Surveyor (Headquarters) of the Lands D. In processing the applications, the team will examine if they meet the eligibility criteria of the new measures and consider carefully if sufficient information has been provided. It may also consult the relevant departments on specific cases and request them to reply within two weeks as far as possible. The team will, if necessary, arrange for discussion of applications at the District Lands Conference. If the applications are approved, the team will, after consulting the solicitors, draft the necessary documents for execution by the applicants. In processing approved applications for redevelopment, the team will assess the land premium and deal with the applicants' appeals against the amount of premium payable (if applicable). Regarding approved applications for conversion, since no waiver fees will be imposed, it will not be necessary for the team to carry out the assessment.
(b) Compared with the usual practice of requiring applicants to submit applications to the relevant District Lands Offices in accordance with the location of their industrial buildings, the establishment of a dedicated team has the advantage of processing all applications under the new measures in a more focused manner and with greater efficiency. Also, as the premium assessment process is no longer required, the overall time for processing applications for wholesale conversion of industrial buildings will be shorter than that for normal cases. Nonetheless, the actual processing time would vary from case to case depending on the circumstances and cannot be generalised. The processing procedures mentioned above generally apply to all applications regardless of whether they are complicated or straightforward cases.
(c) The Lands D is drafting a Practice Note in respect of applications for redevelopment and wholesale conversion of industrial buildings under the new measures. For the reference of potential applicants or professionals who assist applicants in filing applications, the Practice Note will set out application details such as the documents required to be submitted. The Practice Note will be issued in the first quarter of this year and the public can access it via the webpage of the Lands D.
The Lands D will consult the industries in accordance with established procedures when drafting the Practice Note.
Ends/Wednesday, January 20, 2010
Issued at HKT 15:15