COMMENTS ON THE
TOWN PLANNING BILL (2000)
LAND USE PLANNING COMMITTEE
Comments on the Town Planning Bill 2000 ("the 2000 Bill")
Summary of Views
The 2000 Bill follows closely the lines of the Town Planning
Bill, 1996 ("the 1996 Bill") except for the replacement of the
Planning Certificate Procedure for the new Building Authority
Approval of Plans Procedure.
Many of the comments made by the Law Society in our comments
on the 1996 Bill have been incorporated. Where our comments have
not been incorporated and we still maintain them in regard to
the same clause in the 2000 Bill, we repeat the 1996 comment.
We note the same notable omissions which were recorded in our
comments on the 1996 Bill, in particular, as to planning blight
and the role of the Town Planning Board ("TPB").
Planning blight is still not touched upon at all nor are their
provisions in very general terms for the phasing out of such things
as socially obnoxious activities, thinning out of heavy building
densities or obsolete industrial areas, etc.
The role of the TPB in the 2000 Bill is still confined to district
planning though the wider use of planning studies which, presumably,
would take account of strategic issues, is welcomed. However,
as we said in 1996, no attempt is made to give the TPB any defined
role in strategic planning, including reclamations, or to deal
with the odd fit (or discontinuity) there is at present between
strategic planning including infrastructure and district planning.
In deed, since the 1996 Bill, for reasons which are well understood,
e.g. speed, even more infrastructure planning has been removed
from the purview for TPB as in the Railway Ordinance.
The continuing difference in enforcement procedures as between
the rural New Territories and the urban areas (including new towns
in the New Territories) also needs comment. Planning enforcement
in urban areas should not be based only on approval of building
plans as this does not deal with user. As the rural New Territories
becomes increasingly urbanized the difference in treatment between
it and the rest of the SAR in planning enforcement becomes increasingly
anachronistic and hard to justify.
The references to discontinuance for 6 months in this definition
refers to the period before the publication in the Gazette
of notice of the relevant plan. This does not seem adequately
to deal with discontinuance of an existing use after the publication
of the plan unless the phrase "had not change materially to
another use" is intended to refer to this.
"material change of use"
See comments above. We do not think this definition is adequate
or sufficiently comprehensive, for instance, does it include
an intensification of an "existing use" without enlarging
coverage, area, height or amount of deposit?
Is there any need for such a definition as "planning unit"
which would fix the area of land in respect of which an
application is made or a permission is granted?
There is confusion about a number of terms which are defined
in the schedule of terms now issued with Outline Zoning
Plans ("OZP's") and which carry different meanings for different
purposes, e.g. "industrial" in planning terms in Hong Kong
is defined differently from the way it is used in lease
conditions. Should consideration be given either to defining
all these terms now included in the schedule on a statutory
basis or making the schedule of terms a part of the general
notes to all OZP's or giving the TPB power to define such
terms for general guidance?
Similarly, the status of TPB guidelines has not been touched
upon in the 2000 Bill. It is intended to give such guidelines
more than non-statutory status?
Part II Establishment of TPB
Clause 3 (1)
Situations arise where both the appointed Chairman and Deputy
Chairman of the TPB or a committee have a conflict of interest
(particularly where both are public officers) and thus neither
can be act as chairman of the relevant hearing or meeting. Provision
should be made for a temporary chairman, i.e. to allow some other
member of the TPB to act as chairman of the meeting of the TPB/committee
for the consideration of that particular item without the need
for that temporary chairman to be appointed under Clause 3(1)(b).
The secretary, whether a public officer or not, should be an
independent office with its own budget provided by public funds.
It should obtain independent expert advice on behalf of the TPB,
including legal advice and planning environmental and traffic
advice and advice on other relevant disciplines such that the
TPB members are in a position properly to balance the comments
of Government departments on an application against an applicant's
The Schedule setting out disclosure of interest procedures is
Query why in (1)(a) the TPB cannot of its own motion prepare
draft plans, i.e. without needing the direction of the Governor.
In doing this, it can take the advice of the Government. While
the TPB is an independent board in all else (except the final
approval of statutory plans), it is curious that in the preparation
of draft plan function, in the initiation of the steps towards
a draft plan, it still appears to be a creature of the Government
and cannot act without the prompting of the Government.
A general power to obtain independent legal advice should be
Should not the TPB, particularly in the light of subclause (2)
have the power itself to take advice, employ advisers, consultants?
Subclause (3) raises one of the notable omissions from the draft
Bill: there is no attempt to deal with the question of planning
blight - not even to the extent of giving statutory sanction to
any informal procedures to deal with planning blight which have
been followed within the Government in the past.
Should not the opportunity be taken to authorise by way of general
powers schemes for the phasing out of socially obnoxious activities,
or for thinning out heavy building densities or obsolete industrial
areas and such like?
Part III Preparation of Draft Plans
"Comprehensive Development Area" (CDA) is not defined and has
never been properly defined. It is not even defined in Clause
9(1)(i) of the Bill.
More control over the TPB's designating of CDA's should be included
in this Bill. Provision for defining the planning intention of
a CDA should be made such that the planning intention of a CDA
is made known in the statutory notes to a draft plan or a procedure
for it is prescribed. A planning brief system might be prescribed
subject to a statement of general planning intention and subject
to the relevant owner (e.g. where one owner owns the whole CDA)
having some right to comment on the temrs of the brief.
Provision for an "outline planning approval" in a CDA would be
useful as a precursor to a more detailed planning application
with master layout plan.
It should be made clear that the TPB has power to approve an
application which does not cover the whole of the CDA in certain
The development designated under this subclause can be outside
the area of the OZP. Is there any justification for giving the
TPB power to control the development outside an OZP?
Given that there are very few areas of the New Territories which
are not now subject to statutory planning, is it necessary to
retain the DPA plan system inherited from the current system?
Except in cases where a draft plan has to be implemented in an
emergency situation, why cannot Outline Zoning Plans (OZP) now
be divided into "Rural" OZP's and "Urban" OZP's with Rural OZP's
having all the status and the consequences (e.g. concepts of existing
use, enforcement procedures etc.) which now attend upon plans
whose life history follows the sequence: Interim DPA, CDA, OZP?
Why is it that OZP's in the urban area and the new town areas
of the New Territories can still only be enforced by the Building
If the two current methods of enforcement are to be maintained,
designating OZP's as either Rural or Urban enables the method
of enforcement to be ascertained quickly without having to investigate
the history of the plan in each case.
The TPB should be required to state in an OZP what it has taken
into account and whether such materials form part of the planning
intention or can be consulted to determine what is the planning
A minimum period which can be designated by the Board for representations
should be stated in Clause 16 and, possibly, a maximum. The present
clause permits the Board to reduce the period of representations
to a very short period and thus to defeat the purpose of the clause.
Similar comments as made in Clause 16.
General comment on the representation procedure
This comment apply to the whole of the representation procedure
found in Clauses 18 onwards.
While the objective of making the planning process more transparent
is admirable it is not clear whether the price in delay to the
processing time for statutory plans by this new procedure is reasonable
or is too high a price.
The representation concept is presumably intended to be a kind
of mini public inquiry procedure. If so, an unwithdrawn adverse
representation should not just be allowed to become the equivalent
to an objection under the current procedure without some further
positive act by the objector.
It is suggested that after the TPB's view under Clause 20 has
been given, the adverse representor be required to state positively
that he wishes now to object and only such objections positively
made should be given further consideration under Clause 21. An
adverse representation should not just be allowed to ripen into
an "objection" by the representor's doing nothing.
The procedure in Clause 18 should not require a further gazette
notice. It should be added in to the notice of gazettal of the
plan under Clause 16 so that one notice covers details of the
whole procedure and the time limits up to and including Clause
On reflection we query the need for the "comment" procedure at
all. A modified form of it would maintain the existing procedure
but restrict "objections" to owners or others with a financial
interest in a lot and allow "representations" from all others.
The TPB in hearing "objections" would be required to take "representations"
The time limit of 6 weeks in subclause (4) is unworkable and
will not be observed in practice despite the draconian statement
in subclause (6).
We would recommend the inquiry to be the end of the proceedings
so that the qualifications referred to in subclause 1(a) should
not be required.
The procedure in this clause mirrors the unnecessary complications
introduced into the procedure by the new "representations" requirements.
At least a minimum period and possibly a maximum period should
be stated for representations in this clause.
Same comments as in Clause 28.