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Town Planning Board adopts more flexible planning system


The Town Planning Board (the Board) announced today (March 28) a package of measures to further streamline the planning and development process and to provide greater flexibility in the use of land or buildings.

A spokesman for the Board said that the new measures put forward under the Review of the Master Schedule of Notes represented a continuous effort to improve the statutory planning system. The review was announced mid last year, and stakeholders generally welcomed the proposals made under the review. The comments received in the consultation process have been duly considered by the Board.

Under this package, broad use terms will be introduced in the Outline Zoning Plans (OZPs) to provide greater flexibility for change of use. For example, retail shop and barber shop currently classified as separate uses will be put under the broad use "Shop and Services", thereby allowing interchangeable uses.

"This will greatly reduce the need for planning application. In granting planning permission to a broad use, however, the Board may specify where necessary that a certain specific use under the broad use will not be permitted if such use is considered not really suitable at that location," the spokesman explained.

In tandem with the introduction of broad use terms, the two existing sets of definitions of terms used in urban and rural OZPs have been combined and revised.

In addition, the general provisions under the covering Notes and the user schedules for various land use zones in the Master Schedule have been revised, permitting more uses as of right wherever appropriate.

At the same time, the existing provisions for conservation-related zones such as "Site of Special Scientific Interest", "Conservation Area" and "Coastal Protection Area" have been refined by restricting the scope of uses to provide more effective planning control in such areas.

To enhance transparency and certainty in the plan-making process, the planning intentions for various zones will be included in the Notes to form part of the OZPs in future.

"This would allow members of the public to comment on the statements of planning intention in the plan-making process, and also give such statements statutory effect," the spokesman said.

On the two new zoning mechanisms, namely "Other Specified Uses (Rural Use)" and "Other Specified Uses (Mixed Use)", the spokesman said that the Board would draw up two sets of guidelines to set out clearly the criteria regarding designation of such zones and consideration of planning applications for developments within these two zones. He added that stakeholders would be further consulted in the process and the Board also agreed not to designate new "Other Specified Uses (Rural Use)" areas until the new Guidelines have been agreed by the Board and promulgated to the public for information.

Apart from the above, some minor changes to the user schedules for the "Other Specified Uses (Business)" and "Industrial" zones have also been made to address fire safety requirements.

"In general, uses attracting a large number of outsiders will not be permitted on the upper floors of industrial or industrial-office buildings, such as retail and entertainment uses," the spokesman said.

Amendments to existing OZPs will be made in batches to incorporate the revised Notes in the Master Schedule, including the broad use terms. Certain OZPs requiring more time to review may be amended on individual plan basis.

The relevant documents will be formally promulgated at the Board website at when the first batch of OZPs are gazetted.

End/Friday, March 28, 2003


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