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LCQ10: Land use and survey as well as publication of land information

     Following is a question by the Hon Wu Chi-wai and a written reply by the Secretary for Development, Mr Paul Chan, in the Legislative Council today (April 22):


     Regarding land use and survey as well as the publication of land information in Hong Kong, will the Government inform this Council:

(a) as at March 31 this year, of (i) the total area of the lands held under Block Government Leases and, among them, (ii) the total area of the lands used for residential purposes; (iii) the total area of the lands used for agricultural purposes; and (iv) the total area of the lands not covered by any statutory plans, broken down by District Council (DC) district, and set out such information according to the table below;

DC District      (i)         Among those in (i)
-----------      ---         ------------------
                             (ii)  (iii)  (iv)
                             ----  -----  ----

(b) in respect of the lands held under Block Government Leases but not covered by any statutory plan, whether the construction of buildings on such lands is currently subject to any planning restrictions (e.g. building height restrictions); whether the lessees may apply to the Government for redeveloping the buildings on such lands; if so, of the respective numbers of the relevant applications received and approved by the Government in each of the past three years;

(c) of the date and scope of the latest survey conducted by the Government on the lands held under Block Government Leases; whether it has plans to carry out a large-scale survey on such lands in the coming two years;

(d) given that according to the information of the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD), there were about 711 hectares of active farmland and about 3 781 hectares of fallow farmland as at December 2014, how AFCD defines "active farmland" and "fallow farmland" and how it came up with such figures;

(e) of the respective total areas of active farmland and fallow farmland granted by the Government as at March 31 this year; and

(f) given that in reply to a question raised by a Member of this Council in November 2013, the Government said that the Lands Department was planning to set up an online platform to provide online version of survey and mapping information gradually, facilitating the public to purchase various kinds of digitally imaged survey and mapping products (e.g. the Demarcation District Sheet, Lot Index Plan and Land Record Sheet), of the latest progress of such work and when the relevant services will be available to the public?



     Block Government Leases (BGLs, formerly known as Block Crown Leases) are land lease documents granted by the Government in the early days. When the New Territories was leased to the former colonial Government in 1898, in order to understand the situation of land ownership in the New Territories, the Government commissioned surveying staff to conduct a comprehensive land survey of private land with survey plans covering all fields and houses drawn in the New Territories. Such work lasted for three years from 1899. A Land Court was also set up by the Government back then to vet land ownership. Owners of private land in the New Territories accepted by the Land Court would have their names, a description of the then prevailing use of their land, and the government rent payable registered in the schedule of the BGLs, and would be deemed as having granted land from the Government. At present, BGLs cover more than 210 000 parent lots, yet this has not taken into account the number of sub-lots divided from these parent lots.

     Based on information provided by the Lands Department (LandsD), the Planning Department, the Buildings Department (BD) and the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD), I reply to the various parts of the question as follows:

(a) The area of land covered by BGLs amount to about 8 600 hectares, with a vast majority situated in the New Territories. Information on the boundaries, area and then prevailing uses of the land covered by BGLs is registered in the BGLs as well as survey plans enclosed with these leases. Owing to the relatively primitive survey method employed by the surveying staff at that time, and that the survey plans drawn by them are with relatively small scale and of varying qualities, the Government and land surveyors still need to conduct surveys for individual lots for more accurate information when the need arises. The land use descriptions recorded in the relevant BGLs for each lot are just simple, snap shot descriptions of the myriad of land uses as observed on site in the old days. The uses as recorded are illustrative rather than binding lease restrictions on land uses, as BGLs themselves as a kind of lease do not include land use restrictions (the only restriction is the requirement to seek LandsD's approval for erection of structures). As such, it may not be meaningful to stocktake and summarise the snap shot descriptions of land uses, particularly when BGLs cover more than 210 000 parent lots and LandsD has to set aside substantial manpower resources to examine all BGLs in order to provide the information. We are therefore unable to provide the relevant breakdown.

(b) No statutory planning restriction under the Town Planning Ordinance (Cap. 131) is applicable to land that is not covered by any statutory plan. If such land is covered by adopted departmental plans (such as outline development plans), then the land use and planning restrictions shown on such plans would be made reference to when relevant departments formulate development plans or land leases. Moreover, buildings erected on any land will still be subject to the relevant ordinances, land lease conditions and other applicable Government requirements.

     In general, the owner of private land held under the BGL has to, in accordance with the conditions of the concerned BGL, apply to LandsD if he wishes to erect structures on the lot (including applications for rebuilding houses). Moreover, temporary structures or squatters covered by relevant licences or the 1982 Squatter Structure Survey may be found on some of the lots governed by BGLs. If the licensees of temporary structures or occupiers of squatters would like to alter the construction of their structures, they will have to apply to LandsD.

     For the construction or redevelopment of a New Territories Exempted House (NTEH) on land governed by a BGL, LandsD will normally make reference to the Buildings Ordinance (Application to the New Territories) Ordinance (Cap. 121) which stipulates that an NTEH cannot exceed 65.03 square metres (700 square feet) in roofed-over area, three storeys and 8.23 metres (27 feet) in height. On the other hand, if the alteration of a building on land governed by a BGL involves building works not exempted under the Buildings Ordinance (Application to the New Territories) Ordinance (Cap. 121), such works have to comply with the requirements under the Buildings Ordinance (Cap. 123), that is approval of plans and consent to commence works must be obtained from BD before such works begin.

     LandsD and BD do not have readily available statistics on the number of applications or approved cases of construction or redevelopment of buildings on BGL lots not covered by statutory plans.

(c) LandsD has not conducted a new survey of the boundaries of all lots covered by BGLs. LandsD conducts surveys of land boundaries as and when this is required to support the processing of lease modifications and land exchanges and to resolve individual land boundary issues which may arise in the course of government projects, such as land resumption for infrastructure and public housing developments. LandsD currently has no plan to carry out a new survey of the boundaries of all lots covered by BGLs due to other priorities.

(d) AFCD conducts continuous rolling surveys on how agricultural land in Hong Kong is being utilised to help estimate the size of the areas under cultivation. Active agricultural land refers to farmland which is cultivated for production at the time of the survey, while abandoned agricultural land refers to farmland covered by wild growth without any signs of cultivation.

(e) On the basis of the data collected by AFCD through the rolling surveys, there were about 729 hectares of active agricultural land and 3 794 hectares of abandoned agricultural land in Hong Kong as at December 31, 2013. Amongst these, information from LandsD indicates that about 173 hectares of active agricultural land and 843 hectares of abandoned agricultural land are situated on government land. We are unable to provide data as at March 31, 2015.

(f) LandsD secured funding last year to study the feasibility of converting into digital form land record information (such as Lot Index Plan, Demarcation District Sheet and Survey Record Plan) currently being sold in paper form to the public at LandsD's sales counters for dissemination on the Internet. The relevant project is in the preparation stage and is estimated to be completed in the first quarter of 2017.

Ends/Wednesday, April 22, 2015
Issued at HKT 15:15


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