Following is a speech by the Secretary for Planning and Lands, Mr Gordon Siu, in moving the second reading of the Urban Renewal Authority Bill in the Legislative Council meeting today (Wednesday):
I move that the Urban Renewal Authority Bill be read the Second time.
In October last year, the Hong Kong SAR Government published the Urban Renewal Authority Bill in the Gazette in the form of a White Bill for public consultation. The consultation period lasted until the end of the year. Last December, this Council held a motion debate on the White Bill. The LegCo Subcommittee to study the Urban Renewal Authority White Bill met nine times to consider the White Bill, and I am grateful to the Subcommittee for providing us with useful advice. About 300 written submissions were received during the consultation. Representatives of the Planning and Lands Bureau and the Planning Department attended 32 briefing sessions, seminars and public forums on the White Bill. The Bureau also organized two open forums to gather public views.
Comments received indicated broad support for speeding up urban renewal and the adoption of a people-oriented approach. The public, professionals and the property development sector also expressed strong support for a three-pronged approach in urban renewal, including the redevelopment of dilapidated buildings; the rehabilitation of buildings requiring repairs; and the preservation of buildings and areas of historical, cultural or architectural interest. The main issues of concern raised during the consultation period related to rehousing arrangements for tenants affected by urban renewal projects and compensation for owners whose properties are resumed for redevelopment.
Having carefully considered the views received, the Government has amended the White Bill. In response to the comments of this Council, the public and the industry on the White Bill, the Urban Renewal Authority Bill now incorporates the following changes:
(a) specifying the preservation of buildings, sites and structures of historical, cultural or architectural interest as one of the purposes of the Urban Renewal Authority (URA):
(b) empowering the Financial Secretary to approve Corporate Plans and Business Plans submitted by the URA with or without amendments to allow greater flexibility in the approval procedure;
(c) giving the Town Planning Board greater flexibility by allowing it to approve development schemes submitted by the URA with or without amendments; and
(d) improving the procedures for processing objections to an URA development project by providing an opportunity for owners affected by any amendments made by the Secretary for Planning and Lands to the project to raise objections to such amendments and for the objections to be considered. The Secretary should also serve notice in writing of his determination on the owners who made the objection.
The above amendments should enable the public to have a fuller understanding of the purposes of the URA, and enhance the efficiency and flexibility in the URA's operation.
Madam President, this Council and the public have also raised concerns during the consultation period which fall outside the scope the Bill. The issues include the Home Purchase Allowance (HPA) for domestic property owners, compensation for owners of non-residential properties, guidelines for valuation and the establishment of an appeal channel to consider appeals against the determination of the Director of Lands on the HPA. The Government has started to review and follow up on these issues. As they do not touch on the contents of the Bill, I do not intend to elaborate on them. As regards the guidelines for valuation and the appeal channel on HPA, we will shortly submit a paper to the relevant committee of this Council explaining our proposals. As regards compensation for owners, we will review, based on the principle of fairness, the compensation packages for domestic and non-domestic property owners and will report to this Council on the outcome of our review.
Madam President, we are facing an urban crisis and expeditious and effective action is required to tackle the problem of urban decay, in order that the Government can improve the living conditions of those residing in old urban areas, and comprehensively upgrade our urban environment. I recommend the Bill to Members for early passage into law.
End/Wednesday, February 16, 2000