A Submission to the Planning & Lands Bureau (Nov 2011)

Introduction

 

This paper is prepared by the Hong Kong Institute of Planners (HKIP) for submission to the Secretary of Planning & Lands. The paper summarizes the positions as well as the recommended actions of the Institute across a spectrum of policy areas.

 

Hong Kong is at her cross road in her economic development. Our city is also undergoing various social transformations related to community expectations, civic pride, urban culture, identity, education as well as societal harmony. Planning policies are of critical significance at this time of economic and social changes. Land use planning could be an effective means to facilitate the transformation for a better future. It is under this overarching belief that the HKIP puts forward this submission.

 

This paper includes the following topics:

 

Ÿ            Town Planning Bill

Ÿ            Sustainable Development

Ÿ            Heritage Conservation and Planning

Ÿ            Environmental Planning and the Pearl River Delta

Ÿ            Logistics Hub

Ÿ            Land Use – Transportation Planning

Ÿ            Long Term Industrial Development

Ÿ            Future Development of the Planning Career and Profession 

 

It is fully acknowledged that some of the suggestions may fall directly under the policy areas handled by other bureaux within the Hong Kong SAR Government. Nevertheless, we strongly believe that most planning matters in Hong Kong are ‘cross policy bureaux’ in their nature. The formulation of the relevant policies would call for the active participation by the Planning & Lands Bureau as well as the close cooperation of the other bureaux.

 

Town Planning Bill

 

The Hong Kong Institute of Planners (HKIP) urges the Government to proceed with the en-actment of the Town Planning Bill (the White Bill) within the current session of the Legislative Council. The Bill had been fully debated with public consultations extensively undertaken and completed last year. In fact, the Government has published the final report on the consultation and expressed the decision to proceed to en-act the Bill.

 

The Institute supports fully the positions taken by the Government on the Bill after the consultations had been completed. Particularly, we concur with the views of the Government that our planning systems need to incorporate statutory processes that invite wider participation by the public in plan making as well as in planning application.

 

The Institute also believes strongly that this momentum should be sustained and the Bill represents the wishes of the planning profession, the community at large as well as other related professionals in Hong Kong. Hong Kong’s strategic advantage rests with her comprehensive, transparent and fair legal system. The Bill is a major step towards strengthening our city’s planning system.

 

We strongly urge the Government to:

 

1.          Re-affirm the intention to en-act the Town Planning Bill in the current Legislation Council.

2.          Announce specifically a timetable for introducing it to the current session. 

 

Sustainable Development

 

The HKIP supports the steps taken by the Government towards achieving sustainable development for Hong Kong. While the setting up the Sustainable Development Unit within the Office of the Chief Secretary for Administration will facilitate the implementation of the various initiatives, we would like to highlight the importance of planning and lands policies as integral components of a sustainable development policy for Hong Kong.

 

The Institute recommends the Government to:

 

1.      Lead an extensive public discussion on how to attain sustainable development for Hong Kong. The discussions should cover critical issues such as: Quality of life, Population growth, Integration with Pearl River Delta, Social development, as well as Manpower and employment.

 

2.      Based on the results of the public debates suggested above on the 5 critical issues, the Government should formulate an overarching sustainable development policy for Hong Kong. It should define values, priorities, and specific objectives linked to action plans that ensure sustainable development for Hong Kong.

 

3.                 While the Institute recommends the Government to prepare and implement sustainable development strategies in all relevant bureaux/departments, we would strongly urge the Planning and Lands Bureau to adopt the following specific strategies related directly to land use planning in Hong Kong, either directly or in collaboration with other policy bureaux:

 

Ÿ            Promote environmentally friendly rail systems as the major local transportation networks. Develop the networks based on a full assessment of their social and environmental benefits, in addition to only financial viability. Examine the cost effectiveness of reducing capital expenditures for highway construction and cross subsidize the development of mass transit systems in Hong Kong.

 

Ÿ            Enhance community and public participation in the planning process by allowing public to express their comments both during the statutory plan preparation process and on planning applications.

 

Ÿ            Adopt a statutory regulation approach to promote urban design under the Town Planning Ordinance to cover areas of special design interests (such as the waterfronts and other areas of special characters in Hong Kong) in order to improve the quality of our city.

 

Ÿ            Proceed as soon as possible to enact the draft Town Planning Bill to make the planning system in Hong Kong more open, more efficient and effective, and involve the public in various stages of the planning process.

 

Ÿ            Set out a natural and built heritage conservation policy for Hong Kong spelling out the position of the Government in the protection of areas of international, regional and local conservation importance.

 

Ÿ            Establish non-profit making heritage trust funds to acquire, improve and manage sites of special nature or built heritage conservation significance.

 

Ÿ            Adopt as a priority, pedestrianization schemes in existing urban areas of Hong Kong based on their urban design, environmental and social benefits to the local community, not just on transportation and traffic assessments. 

 

Heritage Conservation and Planning

 

Hong Kong lacks a comprehensive and clear policy on how to protect and conserve our natural as well as built heritage. The current legislative frameworks are not effective to provide the protection urged by the community, nor the clarity in land use intentions requested by the developers. The Institute recommends the Government to announce the progress of the current policy review covering these two important aspects of our city.

 

Specifically, the Institute suggests the Planning & Lands Bureau to consider the following measures to create an effective policy framework for the conservation of our heritage:

 

1.      Identify and implement a series of comprehensive local Streetscape Improvement Projects to improve the quality of key public spaces around important heritage buildings. Set up multi-disciplinary urban design teams to work in partnership with local District Councils to lead these projects.

 

2.      Adopt a policy of providing development incentives to achieve urban design objectives on privately owned properties that are of architectural, heritage or cultural significance.

 

3.      Allow for density transfer and development bonus for the landowners in return for achieving conservation objectives for natural and built heritage of international and local significance.

 

4.      Encourage private sector participation and call for proposals for the re-use of heritage buildings/sites under Government ownership.

 

5.      Provide Heritage Improvement Grant for owners of buildings of heritage, cultural or architectural value to encourage the carrying out of improvement works.

 

6.      Complete the database on the heritage sites/buildings in Hong Kong and set up an information system to provide certainty of policy intentions on these sites in terms of development control.

 

7.      Formulate a comprehensive and clear policy on nature conservation for areas of local ecological values and put in place the necessary land use planning intentions on the relevant OZPs.

 

8.      Proactive and yet pragmatic approach in environmental and conservation management should be adopted. More incentives and positive measures should be employed to avoid further environmental degradation and to facilitate comprehensive environmental improvement of the area. These could include transfer of development right and public-private partnership for conservation based developments.

 

9.      The Government should promote advocacy planning and consensus building by involving local bodies and the public to participate in nature conservation and its management. 

 

Environmental Planning and the Pearl River Delta

 

The Hong Kong Institute of Planners do see professional planners playing a very important role in the overall environmental planning for the Pearl River Delta including Hong Kong. The PRD region is where some of the key environmental problems lie and originate. It is also where upon which the future environmental quality of our city would inevitably depend. Proper management and planning of this region should be regarded as a very important input to a regional sustainable development strategy.

 

We would suggest the Government to:

 

1.       Help to facilitate the carrying out of more regional wide environmental planning studies with the direct involvement of environmental planners. These studies should aim at developing environmental quality goals and environmental plans for future developments in the Pearl River Delta.

 

2.       Encourage the contracting out of these studies to local planners to provide the opportunities for the cultivation of environmental planning capacity and expertise in Hong Kong.

 

3.       Consider the implementation of some pilot environmental planning projects, with the direct involvement of the HKIP and other planning/environmental professional organizations in Southern China. 

 

Logistics Hub

 

The Institute supports the policy of the Government to strengthen the competitiveness of Hong Kong to maintain her position as the most important logistic and transportation hub in the region in general and in the Pearl River Delta in particular. This objective could enhance the economic growth of Hong Kong through capitalizing the strategic advantages of our port, and through integrating the existing strength of our air, sea and IT based infrastructure.

 

In view of the fact that the development of Hong Kong as a primary logistic hub would inevitably involve the construction of extensive physical infrastructure and structural land use changes in the coming decade, we would suggest the Planning & Lands Bureau to consider the following suggestions:

 

1.     In the development of additional logistic centers in Hong Kong (Logistic Parks) forming an important part of the multi-modal logistic system at North Lantau and any other selected parts of Hong Kong, the Government should ensure the long-term land use compatibility with the adjacent areas as well as evaluate the impacts on the road network.

 

2.     The Government should also consider the strategic option of redeveloping, on a comprehensive basis, existing old industrial areas as regenerated logistic parks. This will bring new life to these declining areas and make the best efficient use of our land resources.

 

3.     In the creation of major logistic distribution systems linking Hong Kong’s port with the Mainland beyond the boundary of the Hong Kong SAR (such as the Pearl River Delta road, rail or sea born logistic networks), the Government should work closely with the relevant municipal governments in the Mainland in terms of environmental protection, implementation phasing, and efficient cross border traffic management.

 

4.     The Government should evaluate and assess holistically the economic, financial as well as the environmental cases of any major cross border logistic network development.

 

5.     Apart from the hardware and physical infrastructure, the success of Hong Kong as the logistic hub in the region depends very much on the availability of the best IT and telecommunication infrastructure to support the multi-modal logistic operations and supply chain management of the manufacturers, trading, logistic and transportation companies. A policy that integrates both the physical and the IT infrastructure elements of the development strategy is needed. 

 

Land Use - Transportation Planning

 

Land use and transportation are inter-dependent and related policy issues in the governance of any major metropolitan areas. The Institute would like the Government to move quickly towards the implementation of the stated policies leading towards a more efficient comprehensive public transport system in Hong Kong. Concern exists over the poor integration of the various modes of public transport available and unnecessary duplication, resulting in traffic congestion and air pollution. The move to a rail based transport system is fully supported and road based transport must be modified to compliment it while providing a choice of price and travel time.

 

Transport infrastructure planning and implementation cannot be divorced from land use planning decisions. Recent experiences, such as the Route 7 proposals put forward by the Government indicate that policy decisions on transportation and land use planning are still being made separately. Full application of sustainable development principles to transport and land use planning would over-come these problems.

 

We recommend the Government to adopt the following policy directions:

 

1.      Transport and land use planning decisions must be closely integrated. Consideration should be given to further integrate the policy-making functions of the Planning & Lands Bureau as well as the Transport Bureau.

 

2.      Sustainable Development principles and processes must be applied when making transport decisions and re-assessing transport network proposals.

 

3.      Long Term strategies to reduce noise and air pollution from transport must be implemented to avoid the unacceptable predictions of CTS 3 for 2016.

 

4.      Improved planning, implementation and management of pedestrian interchange between transport modes and of pedestrian areas generally should be given a priority.

 

5.      Public accountability and transparency in transport decision-making needs to be improved and public consultation should become an integral part of the decision making process to avoid unnecessary delays. Attention to this is urgently required. 

 

Long-term Industrial Development

 

The Institute expresses concern on the lack of clear policy direction on the use/re-use of the industrial land in Hong Kong to meet the needs of the changing economy, as well as to maximize the land resources for the growth of our city.

 

Apart from those large-scale industrial or technology related developments such as the Science Park, Cyber Port and the Logistics Parks, there is no clear indication by the Government on the policy objectives in relation to the future of the general industrial activities in Hong Kong. Hence, there has been no public debate on this matter with no direction on the part of the Government on what policies should be supported or otherwise. Under such circumstances, the professional planners are very often put in a very difficult position as they have no clear policy guidance to help them to assess how much existing industrial land would need to be retained, and how much and what types of new industrial sites would have to be identified to meet the future demand.

 

 

The Institute recommends the Government to:

 

1.      Establish a clear industrial development policy as soon as possible, so that the planners can formulate appropriate land-use and development strategies in accordance with the Government’s policy objectives.

 

2.      Review the current user provisions under the current “I” and/or “OU” annotated “Business” zones in the OZPs to provide sufficient flexibility to meet the needs of different economic situations and market conditions.

 

3.      Formulate appropriate strategies to utilize, re-generate, or convert the existing vacant industrial floor areas for other appropriate economic activities over short, medium and long-terms, particularly for those sites located within metro areas and the New Towns. 

 

Future Development of the Planning Career and Profession

 

The Institute is very concerned about the future development of the planning profession in Hong Kong. The planning profession, through the HKIP, has contributed significantly to the planning and development of the city using our professional knowledge and expertise over the last two decades. However, we have observed that there has been a decline in the number of students interested to join the profession as a direct result of the lack of career development opportunities in Hong Kong. Fresh graduates as well as practicing planners are facing a very difficult time in pursuing their career in Hong Kong.

 

The declining economic climate as well as the lack of development activities contribute to this concern. On the other hand, the Institute believes that the Government could play a positive and contributory role in strengthening the growth of the profession, and hence ensuring the availability of the relevant expertise and enthusiasm in the society toward urban planning and development in Hong Kong.

 

During a recently completed survey of our members carried out in October/November 2001, the following issues have been raised by most of the members responded to the survey:

 

1.      Most of the members surveyed express pessimism on the future career development and the concern over job security.

 

2.      There is an overwhelming support for the Planning Aid concept (both as a means of advocacy and also as a means of employment creation). Planning Aid is a system whereby the Government subsidizes/funds the provision of professional planning services to organizations and individuals who cannot afford to pay for the services. This system will promote the planning profession within the community, as well as create career opportunities for the planners.

 

3.      Most members surveyed support the suggestion that planning studies or applications must be handled at least by one Registered Professional Planner in order to ensure the availability of professional expertise in these assignments. This would promote the development of the planning profession in Hong Kong.

 

4.      Most members surveyed urge the Government to expand the present Graduate Town Planner scheme within the public sector (Planning Department and Housing Authority). 

 

Public Affairs Committee
Hong Kong Institute of Planners
11 November 2001

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