LCQ4 : Effectiveness of administration of Moratorium

    Following is a question by the Hon Alan Leong and a reply by the Secretary for the Environment, Transport and Works, Dr Sarah Liao, at the Legislative Council meeting today (November 1) :


     In September this year, the Office of The Ombudsman (the Office) published a direct investigation report which points out that the relevant government departments have not effectively executed the administrative measure known as the Mid-Levels Moratorium (the Moratorium) introduced in 1972. Consequently, the residential developments in Mid-Levels have become too intensive, and the traffic congestion problem has worsened. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(a) whether it has assessed the effectiveness of the administration of the Moratorium; if it has, of the date and specific details of such assessment; if not, the reasons for that;

(b) whether it has taken into account the Moratorium when drawing up the existing Mid-Levels West Outline Zoning Plan (OZP) which imposes a plot ratio of around 5 in "Residential Group (B)" zone; if it has, of the details; if not, the reasons for that; and whether it has received any objections to the said OZP on the ground of the Moratorium; and

(c) whether it will consider accepting the Office's recommendation by adopting appropriate measures "to supplement, strengthen or replace the Moratorium"; if it will, of the specific details of such measures; if not, the reasons for that?


Madam President,

     The Mid-Levels Moratorium, which dates back to 1972, was introduced on traffic grounds.  In the light of the traffic assessment and the known extent of development then, it was concluded that for the Mid-Levels area, all further sales of Government lands, and all further modifications of Government leases to permit more intensive development, should be deferred.

     The Mid-Levels Moratorium, being administrative in nature, was never intended to prohibit developments/redevelopments in the Mid-Levels area, but to restrict developments/redevelopments to what is permissible under the existing leases. As for leases that are unrestricted in terms of development rights, the Government cannot unilaterally impose a limit so long as the proposed redevelopment complies with the Outline Zoning Plan and the Buildings Ordinance.

     For the three parts of the questions, the Government replies as follows:

(a) Since the implementation of the Mid-Levels Moratorium, we have conducted eight traffic studies to monitor the traffic situation in the area, including the latest one conducted in 2005. The findings show that while there have been mild drops in vehicular travel speed, the overall situation remains relatively stable.  For example, the Bonham Road/Caine Road corridor has registered slight changes in average vehicular speed.  It was 17.3 km/h in 1984, 14 km/h in 1995 and 14.6 km/h in 2005.  On the whole, the implementation of the Moratorium, coupled with a range of traffic and transport improvement measures over the years, has prevented serious traffic congestion in the area.

(b) In preparing statutory plans, the Town Planning Board (TPB) would take into account certain basic principles, including residential density, land uses and the compatibility among transport, environmental and infrastructural planning.

     When considering imposition of development restrictions for the Mid-Levels West area, the TPB was concerned about the traffic congestion problem and requested the Transport Department to conduct a traffic study for the area in 1986.  Taking into account the findings of the traffic studies conducted by the Transport Department and the Highways Department between 1986 and 1989 (which concluded that unless the capacity of the relevant road networks could be improved and respective development restrictions be imposed on building developments, serious traffic congestion would occur in the Mid-Levels area), the aforesaid basic planning principles and other planning considerations (including the existing housing character of the area, infrastructural provision, environment and visual impact), the TPB decided to impose a maximum plot ratio of 5 for the " Residential ( Group B)" ("R(B)") zone when amending the Mid-Levels West OZP.

     Upon the gazettal of the Mid-Levels West OZP No. S/H11/4 on September 7, 1990, the TPB received 29 objections against the plot ratio restriction of 5 for the "R(B)" zone.  The objectors requested that the plot ratio restriction be either relaxed or removed.  The TPB, however, did not amend the OZP in light of the objections.  The OZP was subsequently approved by the Executive Council.

     The TPB is aware of the Mid-Levels Moratorium.  The maximum plot ratio has also been maintained since the aforesaid amendments to the Mid-Levels West OZP.

(c) The Government will conduct a comprehensive review, listen to views from the community and consider all relevant factors, before deciding on the measures to be adopted to follow up on the Ombudsman's recommendation.

Ends/Wednesday, November 1, 2006
Issued at HKT 12:30