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LCQ4: Compensations and rehousing for residents affected by North East New Territories NDAs Planning

Following is a question by the Hon Lau Kwok-fan and a reply by the Secretary for Development, Mr Michael Wong, in the Legislative Council today (March 28):

Question:

As early as 2008, the Government consulted the North District Council on the North East New Territories New Development Areas Planning. In 2013, the Government announced the revised proposals to first take forward the projects in the two New Development Areas (NDAs) in Kwu Tung North and Fanling North under that Planning, and to adopt an enhanced Conventional New Town Approach under which the Government would take the lead in implementing the development project and allow landowners of private lands to apply for "conditional lease modification" (including in-situ land exchange) subject to specified conditions. It is learnt that an application for in-situ land exchange made by the landowner of a private land located within the boundary of the two NDAs has been approved. However, the Government has for a protracted period of time not implemented its rehousing and compensation proposals for the land resumption in the two NDAs, causing various kinds of inconvenience to the daily life of the residents in the areas. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(1) as the North District Council unanimously passed motions in April last year urging the Government to improve its rehousing and compensation proposals for the two NDAs in Kwu Tung North and Fanling North and to conduct afresh discussions with the affected residents, of the Government's progress in following up the motions; whether it will put forward improved proposals; if so, of the details and implementation timetable; if not, the reasons for that;

(2) given that under the current mechanism, for residents affected by development projects to be eligible for rehousing and ex-gratia allowances, they must have been registered in the freezing survey concerned and are still living in the locations concerned upon clearance, but as the Government has for a protracted period of time not confirmed the dates for land resumption and clearance in the two NDAs, quite a number of residents have moved out due to coercion by landowners resulting in such residents being ineligible for compensations, whether the Government will follow up such cases and offer assistance or compensations to the persons concerned; if so, of the details; if not, the reasons for that; and
 
(3) as the Government has approved the aforesaid application for in-situ land exchange, and the works soon to be carried out on the relevant land will affect the daily life of the residents in the vicinity who have not yet been rehoused and offered compensation by the Government, of the support and subsidies that the Government will provide to such residents; whether the Government will consider pursuing land resumption in one go in lieu of the current phased land resumption plan so as to minimise the impacts on residents; if so, of the details; if not, the reasons for that?

Reply:
 
President,
 
The Kwu Tung North (KTN) and Fanling North (FLN) New Development Areas (NDAs) (formerly called the North East New Territories Development) are an important source of land and housing supply in the medium and long term. The two NDAs will provide about 60 000 housing units, comprising 36 600 units (i.e. 60 per cent) for public housing and 23 300 units (i.e. 40 per cent) for private housing, and accommodate more than 170 000 new population. To optimise the utilisation of land resources for increasing housing supply within the NDAs, we will submit a planning application to the Town Planning Board (TPB) to increase the development intensity of the housing sites within the year. The enhanced development intensity will all be used to increase public housing units. Should the proposed increase in development intensity be approved by the TPB, the total number of public housing units will increase about 12 000 to 48 400, whereas that of private housing units will remain unchanged at 23 300. The proportion of public housing provision within the NDAs will increase from about 60 per cent to about 68 per cent.

My reply to the Hon Lau Kwok-fan's question is as follows:
 
(1) The Development Bureau has been liaising closely with the local groups and residents concerning the KTN and FLN NDAs development. In April 2017, the North District Council (DC) passed a motion requesting the Government to further enhance the ex-gratia allowance and rehousing arrangements. As for residents affected by the two NDA development, the Government is fully aware of their concerns about clearance. We have hence proposed special ex-gratia compensation allowances (SEGCA) and special rehousing schemes for affected eligible households, including cash allowance of $600,000 and local rehousing arrangements. At present, the Civil Engineering and Development Department and the Lands Department are undertaking the statutory and other procedures for the Advance and First Phase Works for the NDAs. Based on the latest work progress, we plan to seek funding from the Legislative Council (LegCo) for the construction and land resumption of the Advance and First Phase Works in the first half of 2019.  Meanwhile, we will continue to listen to the public views on the SEGCA and rehousing arrangements and make preparations for our funding application.

(2) For all public works projects involving land resumption and clearance, the Government will conduct "freezing survey" to capture the current status of existing structures and occupants which might be affected by the proposed development. Upon confirmation of the need for land clearance, the information obtained by "freezing survey" will be used for assessing the eligibility for rehousing or compensation of the residents affected by clearance. The purpose of "freezing survey" is to support the Government to provide appropriate rehousing or compensation arrangement for the genuine affected residents who were captured during the "freezing survey". If the residents registered during the "freezing survey" for any reasons have moved out before the commencement of land clearance by the Government, they will not be the genuine affected residents and the Government could hardly offer rehousing or compensation to them as this would deviate from the prevailing policy. For the development of KTN and FLN NDAs, to protect the interests of affected occupants, the Government conducted the "freezing survey" in a timely manner so as to prevent any person from forcing the occupants to move out with a view to obtaining the rehousing or compensation for the registered occupants. This was also in response to the requests for an early undertaking of "freezing survey" by the locals and the DC.
 
On the case mentioned by the Hon Lau, it should be noted that the interests of both the private land owner and the occupant are governed by their private agreements.  The private land owner is entitled to handle his/her own property in accordance with the conditions of the agreement or other lawful means. The "freezing survey" undertaken by the Government cannot and should not prevent the land owner from exercising his/her legitimate rights. If the land owner, for any reasons, exercises his/her legitimate rights to request the occupant to terminate the use of his/her property, the Government is in no position to interfere.  When in need, residents can seek assistance from the Social Service Team engaged by the Government. The Social Service Team will refer the case to relevant government departments for follow-up.  If any resident was forced to move out by illegal means or unreasonable harassment, he/she shall report to the Police immediately.

(3) Processing of the two in-situ land exchange applications within the boundary of the Advance and First Phase Works of the KTN and FLN NDAs has been completed. The land owner is required by the Government to reprovision the public facilities and pedestrian passageway within the land exchange site before commencement of works. Relevant government departments are considering the reprovisioning proposal submitted by the land owner. The Government will perform a gate-keeping role so as to minimise any construction impact on nearby residents. This includes requesting the land owner to undertake appropriate measures to protect public safety and minimise impacts on nearby residents and surrounding environment.

As with previous new town developments, we will trigger resumption of private land by phases to tie in with the scheduling of works programme. For large-scale NDA developments, there can be a time gap of several years between the commencement of different phases of works. If the Government proceeds with land resumption and clearance before the design of a particular phase is confirmed, this will affect residents earlier than necessary and deviate from the principle of optimising utilisation of public money based on policy priorities.

The two NDAs will broadly be implemented in two phases: the Advance and First Phase Works as mentioned above, and the Remaining Phases. The Advance and First Phase Works involving resumption of 68 hectares (ha) of private land and clearance of 500 households will be implemented in one go.  While construction is underway, the Government will implement all feasible mitigation measures to avoid causing unacceptable impacts on the residents remaining within the NDA areas.

The Remaining Phases involving resumption of 117 ha of private land and clearance of 1 000 households were originally planned to be implemented by phases. In the light of concerns from various sectors, including the Hon Lau's, we will consolidate the Remaining Phases into one single phase, and aim to seek funding from the LegCo for undertaking detailed design for that consolidated phases in the first half of 2019 together with our funding application for construction of the Advance and First Phase Works. This can allow us to confirm in a timely manner the design and land resumption boundary for the consolidated phase so that we can initiate follow-up work early. Thank you, President.

Ends/Wednesday, March 28, 2018
Issued at HKT 15:05

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