Following is a speech by the Secretary for Planning and Lands, Mr Gordon Siu, in moving the second reading of the Town Planning Bill in the Legislative Council meeting today (Wednesday):
I move the Second Reading of the Town Planning Bill.
The Government published the Town Planning White Bill in 1996 for public consultation. The Bill aims to achieve the following five main objectives -
* make the Hong Kong planning system more open and accountable;
* streamline the existing statutory planning procedures;
* enhance planning control on building developments;
* strengthen enforcement power against unauthorized developments; and
* enable more comprehensive planning consideration for sites or developments that are particularly environmentally sensitive or warrant special protection.
During the consultation period, the Government had collected different opinions and views from the public on the White Bill, and the issues of particular concern include -
* how to make the operation of the Town Planning Board (TPB) more open and accountable to the public without undermining its efficiency;
* the possibility of allowing greater public participation in the planning process without hindering and affecting the infrastructure developments in Hong Kong;
* how to strengthen the planning control to protect our environment and heritage to achieve a better urban design without limiting the scope of creativity and opportunities of private developments; and
* how to ensure that land development complies with the requirements of statutory plans, without creating additional application steps and causing unnecessary delay to private development.
We have made appropriate amendments to the White Bill after examining the views gathered during the consultation period. The Government had further discussed the main provisions of the Bill with all relevant committees, professional institutes, academic bodies, green groups and political parties. In our consultation exercise, we had fully considered different views and made further fine-tunings to the Bill to reflect the public aspirations as far as practicable.
Madam President, the Bill I am introducing today is the consolidated efforts of all those who are concerned about the planning and city design of Hong Kong. Though the Bill may not be ideal from an individual's point of view, it has in fact reflected the greatest consensus which can be achieved by the majority in the community.
As compared with the existing legislation, the amended Bill has achieved the legislative goals mentioned earlier. For instance -
* the Bill introduces 24 new statutory time limits to shorten the various steps of plan-making and planning application procedures. The Bill will effectively shorten the planning application procedure by about five to six months;
* the Bill provides for at least three new statutory requirements to ensure that the public have the right to comment and be consulted in the process of plan-making and planning application. These include their rights to comment on the planning studies, representations and any planning applications for "bad neighbour" uses; and
* apart from retaining the existing land use zoning, the Bill has introduced three new designated uses including the "Environmentally Sensitive Area", "Special Design Area" and "Designated Development" to ensure effective planning control and to protect the environment and cultural heritage.
As a move to promote transparency and accountability of the TPB, the Bill has proposed -
* to increase the quorum of the TPB meetings and require non-official members to form the majority of the quorum of any meeting;
* to require TPB members to declare interest and such record shall be made available for public inspection; and
* to set up a planning register of all statutory planning records for public inspection.
Honourable members, throughout the discussion process, all relevant institutes and organizations have shown their support to the spirit of the Bill. Today, introducing the Bill to this Council is the first step to fulfil our commitment of enacting this legislation. I hope that all Members of this Council would give full support and priority consideration to the Bill with a view to facilitating its early enactment.
End/Wednesday, February 16, 2000