The Town Planning Board (the Board) has agreed in principle to a package of proposals for further streamlining the planning and development process and providing greater flexibility in the use of land or buildings.
One of the major proposals is the introduction of broad use terms to provide greater flexibility for change of use. The Board considered that some of the existing use terms in the Notes of Outline Zoning Plans (OZPs) were too specific, rendering planning control in that respect very rigid.
"Although retail shop and barber shop have similar planning implications, they are regarded as two types of uses at present because they are separately listed in the Notes," a spokesman for the Board explained today (July 4).
"With the introduction of broad use terms, e.g. 'Shop and Services', all uses within the same broad use could be interchangeable. This would significantly reduce the need to apply for planning permission," the spokesman said.
In the same vein, the scope of uses always permitted under the general provisions of the covering Notes of OZPs could be expanded. The user schedules for various zones have also been comprehensively reviewed, with new uses added to Column 1 (i.e. uses always permitted) or transferred from Column 2 (i.e. uses requiring planning permission) to Column 1 wherever appropriate.
"Two new zoning mechanisms, namely the "Other Specified Uses" ("OU") annotated "(Mixed Use)" and "(Rural Use)" zones, have been proposed to meet changing needs.
"Under the concept of Mixed Use zoning, a mix of uses either within a spatial area (i.e. horizontal mix) or within a building (i.e. vertical mix) would be allowed.
"The Mixed Use zoning is intended to replace the existing "Commercial/Residential" ("C/R") zoning, under which the co-location of residential and commercial uses on the same floor may generate nuisances to the residents," he added.
The spokesman said that the new zoning could maintain the "C/R" land use flexibility while providing better planning control to minimize the interface problems.
For the rural New Territories, good quality agricultural land would be retained, but the zoning of other agricultural land on individual OZPs would be reviewed and, where appropriate, be rezoned to other purposes including the new "OU(Rural Use)" zoning.
Land use reviews are being undertaken for various parts of the Northern New Territories.
The Rural Use zoning is intended primarily for the preservation of the character of the rural areas. Uses or developments compatible with the rural landscape, such as passive recreation uses and a selected range of rural uses may be allowed on application.
The Tai Tong OZP gazetted last Friday (June 28) is the first plan incorporating this new zoning.
To enhance transparency, it is proposed to include the planning intentions for various zones in the Notes to form part of the OZPs. This would allow public comment or objection to the planning intention, which may be amended to suit individual OZPs.
The spokesman said that some large-scale uses having major planning and environmental implications, such as abattoir and gas works, would be deleted from individual zones.
Such installations would in future be put under the "OU" zoning. The public would become aware of the specific land uses and could raise objection through the normal statutory planning process.
To achieve greater consistency, there is also a proposal to combine the existing two sets of Master Schedules of Notes for the urban and new towns areas and for the rural areas, having regard to the extent of enforcement powers under the Town Planning Ordinance.
Moreover, the definitions of terms would be combined and updated to take into account changing requirements.
"The proposals are made under the ongoing Review of the Master Schedule of Notes to Statutory Plans, with the objectives to streamline planning procedures, introduce new zoning mechanisms, enhance transparency and achieve greater consistency in planning control," he said.
The Board has recently agreed to expand the uses in several land use zones, including the "Industrial", "Commercial" and "C/R" and "OU(Business)" zones to cater for, where appropriate, such uses as information technology and telecommunications industries, place of public entertainment and educational institution.
The spokesman said that the latest package of proposals represented the Board's continuous effort to improve the statutory planning system to meet changing community needs and aspirations.
The Board agreed that the Planning Department should consult major stakeholders such as professional institutions on the proposals for refinement before incorporation into individual OZPs for public comments.
End/Thursday, July 4, 2002