Following is a question by the Hon Tanya Chan and a reply by the Secretary for Development, Mrs Carrie Lam, in the Legislative Council today (May 18):
In January 2008, the Town Planning Board (TPB) proposed amendments to the draft Wong Nai Chung Outline Zoning Plan (OZP) to incorporate building height restrictions for the Hong Kong Sanatorium and Hospital (HKSH) site, and HKSH applied for judicial review (JR) from the court in this regard. On September 1, 2010, HKSH submitted a settlement proposal to TPB which accepted the proposal on September 3, and the Metro Planning Committee under TPB agreed on September 10 to make amendments to the OZP. The relevant JR proceedings were terminated on September 27. On September 30, TPB consulted the public on the revised draft OZP. It has been learnt that, with the aforesaid amendments and upon completion of the relevant expansion project of HKSH, the number of bed spaces in private hospitals in the Happy Valley area will increase substantially. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:
(a) given that TPB proposed further amendments to the OZP and conducted consultation after accepting HKSH's settlement proposal, whether the authorities have assessed if TPB's practice of "agreement first, consultation to follow" renders the subsequent public consultation to lose its substantive meaning; whether TPB had gone through such amendment and consultation procedures which were similar to the above practice of "agreement first, consultation to follow" in the past; if it had, of the details; whether the authorities have assessed the legal risks and liabilities to be borne by TPB if the amendments ultimately approved after the consultation do not conform with the contents of the settlement proposal;
(b) as I have learnt that the Planning Department (PlanD), as the executive arm of TPB, has handled the settlement issues related to the aforesaid JR case on behalf of TPB under TPB's delegated authority, while at the same time PlanD is also responsible for consolidating the views given by various policy bureaux and departments on HKSH's revised development proposal as well as providing TPB with objective and professional advice, whether the authorities have assessed if this has resulted in role conflicts for PlanD, making it impossible for PlanD to provide professional advice in an independent manner; and
(c) during the planning process in dealing with the expansion project of HKSH, whether the authorities have assessed the impact of the project on the planning for the supply of bed spaces in private hospitals on the Hong Kong Island and even in Hong Kong as a whole; if they have, of the assessment results; if not, the reasons for that?
The Town Planning Board (TPB) is established under section 2 of the Town Planning Ordinance (the Ordinance). It discharges its functions under the Ordinance independently.
The question is asking about a decision of the TPB. It would not be appropriate for me to give an explanation on its behalf. The case in question has nevertheless been recorded in the papers of the TPB that are accessible to the public. I would refer to those documents and my reply to the three-part question is as follows.
(a) As pointed out in Metro Planning Committee (MPC) Paper No. 20/10, according to the settlement proposal between the Hong Kong Sanatorium and Hospital (HKSH) and the TPB (the settlement proposal), the Planning Department (PlanD) was required to prepare a paper for the MPC meeting on September 10, 2010, and propose amendments to the draft Wong Nai Chung Outline Zoning Plan No. S/H7/14 (the new draft OZP) under section 7 of the Ordinance. After PlanD had submitted the relevant paper, and the MPC agreed to the amendments to the draft OZP on September 10, 2010, the HKSH withdrew its application for judicial review (JR) as set out in the settlement proposal.
As mentioned above, the TPB had amended the draft OZP as required in the settlement proposal, and published the amendments in gazette for public consultation in accordance with the Ordinance. Representations and comments in respect of the new draft OZP had also been handled in accordance with the Ordinance. The TPB's exhibition of the amendments, conduct of consultation and processing of public representations and comments were all done in accordance with the Ordinance and it would be inappropriate for the Development Bureau to comment.
As far as I know, there was no similar precedent of a settlement proposal for the TPB.
(b) According to the information provided by the Secretary of the TPB, in the settlement of this case, the Secretary of the TPB has been acting on authority delegated by the TPB, representing the TPB in handling the settlement matters relating to the JR, including advising on the settlement proposal and its terms, as well as seeking professional and legal advice on the relevant matters for the TPB's consideration. On the other hand, in dealing with the HKSH's proposed development and making amendments to the draft OZP, PlanD was mainly responsible for consolidating the views of the relevant bureaux and departments, and providing planning analysis and professional planning advice to the TPB. It had also confirmed that the development proposal was acceptable.
However, it is the job of the TPB to consider and decide on the settlement proposal and the amendments to the draft OZP. The Secretary of the TPB and PlanD are mainly responsible for giving objective, professional and independent advice on the relevant procedures/legal issues and planning matters. There is no conflict of roles.
(c) The TPB had considered the HKSH's expansion project with reference to the views of the Food and Health Bureau (FHB) and the Department of Health (DH). FHB supported the development proposal and DH did not object to it.
It is the Government's policy to promote private hospital development to enhance the overall capacity of the healthcare system and further improve the quality of healthcare services to cope with the increasing service demand in Hong Kong. Private hospital development also helps address the imbalance between the public and private sectors in hospital services for the long-term sustainable development of the healthcare system in Hong Kong. Subject to compliance of the development with relevant statutory and regulatory requirements, the Government supports the expansion and redevelopment projects of existing private hospitals for the enhancement of their services, as well as the development of new hospitals.
In general, private hospitals provide services to residents living in the same district and also those from other districts. Apart from residents of the same district where the hospital is located, residents of other districts can also benefit from the new services and enhanced facilities provided by private hospitals through expansion or redevelopment. As far as the HKSH's expansion project is concerned, FHB and DH consider that it will enhance hospital services and increase the number of hospital beds and service capacity for the benefit of the public. The Government supports the HKSH's redevelopment project subject to compliance of the hospital with relevant statutory and regulatory requirements.
Ends/Wednesday, May 18, 2011
Issued at HKT 16:10