LCQ7: Rural land uses

     Following is a question by the Hon Kenneth Lau and a written reply by the Secretary for Development, Mr Eric Ma, in the Legislative Council today (March 29):
     Regarding rural land uses, will the Government inform this Council:
(1) of the following details of the lands in various statutory plans which are zoned for the uses listed in the table below at present: (i) the total area, as well as the respective total areas of the lots therein that are (ii) privately owned and (iii) government owned; (iv) the total area of land within country parks, and the respective total areas of the lots therein that are (v) privately owned and (vi) government owned;
Land uses (i) (ii) (iii) (iv) (v) (vi)
Green Belt zone            
Village Type Development            
Agriculture zone            
Site of Special Scientific Interest            
Conservation Area            
Coastal Protection Area            
Country Park       N.A. N.A. N.A.

(2) of the changes in the areas of various country parks since July 1, 1997, including their areas as at year-end of each of the past five years, as well as the date of and the area involved in each change;

(3) as the Government has indicated in this year's Policy Address that it will commence a study on Agricultural Priority Areas to identify quality agricultural lands with a relatively large area and formulate policies and measures for promoting rehabilitation of fallow agricultural lands, whether it can provide the following details about the study:
(i) the criteria adopted by the authorities for defining whether a land is quality agricultural land;
(ii) the respective total areas of agricultural lands under active farming and fallow agricultural lands across the territory at present, as well as the respective areas of such lands that are quality agricultural lands;
(iii) the respective numbers of planning applications for changing the agricultural land use which were received and approved in each of the past five years by the Town Planning Board; the area of agricultural land, the planned use upon amendment and the amount of land premium payable (if applicable) involved in each of the approved applications; and
(iv) the respective numbers of applications for leasing agricultural lands under the Agricultural Land Rehabilitation Scheme received by the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department in each of the past five years, the number of cases of leasing agricultural lands mediated, the total area of agricultural lands leased and the average waiting time for the applicants concerned; and
(4) of the respective total areas of private and government lands currently available for building small houses (i.e. areas within Village Environs and zoned for Village Type Development, after deducting the lands that are not suitable for building small houses such as slopes, passageways, fragmented sites in irregular shapes); if such details are unavailable, of the reasons for that?
      Having consulted the Environment Bureau, the Food and Health Bureau (FHB), the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD), the Planning Department and the Lands Department, our replies to different parts of the question are as follows:
(1) As at mid-March this year, the total land areas zoned "Green Belt", "Village Type Development" ("V"), "Agriculture" ("AGR"), "Site of Special Scientific Interest", "Conservation Area" and "Coastal Protection Area" on statutory plans across the territory, and the total land area of Country Parks in Hong Kong, are set out in the table below.  Only a very small proportion of land in the relevant land use zonings (accounting for about 0.5% of the land area) overlaps with the area of Country Parks.
  Total Land Area (hectares) (ha)
Green Belt 16 302
Village Type Development 3 368
Agriculture 3 187
Site of Special Scientific Interest 1 136
Conservation Area 5 739
Coastal Protection Area 827
Country Parks 43 455

     The Government does not compile statistics on the ownership of land in the relevant land use zonings.
     It should be noted that the relevant land use zonings are only broad-brush planning.  The total land areas of the zonings only include the land covered by statutory plans, but not the farmland, villages or rural areas, etc. outside the statutory plans (such as individual Country Park "enclaves").  The total land areas of "V" and "AGR" zones are also not equivalent to the usable or developable land area.  For example, "V" zones scatter across the territory, and normally reflect the extent of pre-existing rural villages (including villages that had been resited in the past to make way for new town development), which cover mainly recognised villages in the New Territories.  In general, these sites are not suitable for large-scale development because of the infrastructural and other ancillary constraints and their sporadic locations.  Existing land in the "AGR" zones may also not be suitable for agricultural use.  For example, some of the land may already have existing buildings, brownfields or other uses.
(2) From 1997 to end-February 2017, the changes in the area of Country Parks are detailed below:
  Date of Change(s) Country Park(s) Involved Reasons for the Change(s) in the Total Area of Country Park(s) Change(s) (ha)
1. December 18, 1998 Ma On Shan Due to the widening of Sai Sha Road, an area of Country Park was excised. Decreased by 0.1
2. December 18, 1998 Lung Fu Shan Designation of a new Country Park Increased by 47
3. November 7, 2008 Lantau North Extension Designation of a new Country Park Increased by 2 360
4. December 30, 2013 Sai Kung East,
Tai Lam,
Kam Shan
1. Incorporation of three Country Park "enclaves", namely Sai Wan, Yuen Tun and Kam Shan into the respective Country Parks.
2. Re-measurement of the above three Country Parks' boundaries using the latest cartographic techniques.
Increased by 61 altogether

     In the past five years, the changes in the total area of Country Parks are as set out in the table below:
Year Total Area of Country Parks (ha)
2012 43,394
2013 43,394
2014 43,455*
2015 43,455
2016 43,455
* Please see item (4) in the above table for the increase of 61 ha in the total area of Country Parks from 2013 to 2014. 

(3) (i) and (ii) As at 2016, the Government estimates that there were around 4 400 ha of agricultural land (according to AFCD's statistics, which is different from the above area of the "AGR" land use zoning), of which around 700 ha are under active cultivation.  As announced in the 2017 Policy Address, the FHB and the Development Bureau will jointly commission a consultancy study later this year to identify relatively large areas of quality agricultural land as Agricultural Priority Areas (APAs), and explore how to formulate suitable policies and measures to provide incentives to encourage or facilitate owners to put fallow agricultural land into long-term agricultural use.  The parameters for designating APAs will also be considered in the study.
(iii) According to our records, a total of 15 rezoning applications involving "AGR" zones under section 12A of the Town Planning Ordinance (TPO) were received by the Town Planning Board (TPB) in the past five years (i.e. from 2012 to 2016).  Amongst them, seven were not agreed by the TPB, six were withdrawn by the applicant and two were deferred for consideration by the TPB.  In other words, no rezoning application involving "AGR" zones was approved by the TPB in the past five years. 
     With regard to the planning applications for permanent development involving "AGR" zones under section 16 of TPO, their details are set out in the table below:
Year No. of Applications Received
(No. of Approved Cases)
Range of
Site Area of Individual Approved Cases
Approved Uses
(No. of Approved Cases)
2012 165 (103) from 65 to 3 280 m2# New Territories Exempted House (NTEH) (95)
Public Utility Installation (PUI) or Utility Installation for Private Projects* (8)
2013 159 (97) from 65 to 635 m2^ NTEH (93)
PUI or Utility Installation for Private Projects* (2)
Burial Ground (2)
2014 213 (128) from 40 to 786 m2# NTEH (124)
PUI or Utility Installation for Private Projects* (4)
2015 161 (61) from 65 to 1 271 m2 NTEH (61)
2016 167 (91) from 65 to 1 940 m2 House (1)
NTEH (90)

* PUI or Utility Installation for Private Projects includes sewage pumping station, electricity package substation, master water meter room and telecommunications and broadcasting room.
# Excluding small PUIs or Utility Installation for Private Projects with areas less than 12 m2.
^ Excluding the two burial grounds of 2 700 m2 and 30 000 m2.

     Regarding the above approved NTEH planning applications, either nominal premium has been charged or relevant fee has been waived for the related land grant or lease modification.  As for the above approved non-NTEH planning applications, no premium has been involved for the completed land grant or lease modification.
(iv) Information on the Agricultural Land Rehabilitation Scheme in the past five years (i.e. from 2012 to 2016) is set out in the table below:
Year No. of New Applications No. of Successful Cases Area of Farmland Involved (ha) Average Waiting Time
2012 38 9 3.4 3.5
2013 51 14 6.2 4
2014 44 12 2.6 5
2015 45 41 5.4 5
2016 65 29 4.0 4

(4) As a general rule, Village Environ (VE) refers to a 300-foot radius from the edge of the last village type house built before the introduction of the Small House Policy on December 1, 1972.  Applications for building small houses within this area by eligible indigenous villagers may be considered.  Consideration may also be given to an application if the site concerned lies outside a VE but is located within a "V" zone in the relevant statutory plan, provided that the "V" zone concerned encircles or overlaps with the VE.  As regards sites within a VE but outside a "V" zone, depending on the specific requirements of the land use zone on which the small house site lies, an applicant may apply for planning permission from the TPB and the small house application may also be considered if a planning permission is granted.
     Nonetheless, applications in relation to sites located within neither a VE nor a "V" zone will generally not be considered.  In addition, applications for small house development within "V" zones that do not overlap with VEs at all will generally not be considered either.
     It is worth noting that not all of the land in VEs or "V" zones is suitable for building small houses.  Besides, since the topography, geographical situation, size and distribution of individual lots, etc. would also directly affect the use of land, the Government is unable to provide the area of private and government land suitable for building small houses.

Ends/Wednesday, March 29, 2017
Issued at HKT 14:30