OZPs Master Schedule Review (Preliminary Views) (Sep 2002)
The Hong Kong Institute of Planners (HKIP) welcomes the Planning Department’s initiative to conduct a comprehensive review of the Master Schedule of Notes to the Outline Zoning Plans.
The Notes are playing very important roles in Hong Kong’s statutory planning system and account for, to a significant extent, the effective and efficient implementation of our planning efforts. Devised as a robust mechanism, the Notes intend to combine the benefits of flexibility in a discretionary application system and certainty in a zoning system.
With rapid changes over the past two decades in our urban and rural environment, as well as the concurrent changes in the social, economic and political context, numerous partial and/or ad-hoc modifications to the Notes have been carried out. Review of the Notes of a more comprehensive nature is very appropriate. The HKIP in principle agrees with the main objectives of the Review as set out in the consultation.
Specific comments are presented as follows:
Broad Use Terms
We generally agree that some the existing uses in the Notes should be grouped into broad types to avoid unwarranted planning procedures. However, caution should be exercised in the detailed grouping to avoid abuses. Affected parties may react negatively against a neighbouring change of use not under any form of planning control.
Proposed New Zoning Mechanisms
We appreciate that new zonings are required from time to time to support the functions of the OZP. We urge the Planning Department to spell out specifically the criteria and the time table for applying each new zoning in order to avoid speculation, as in the case of the proposed “OU (Rural Use)”.
Possible knock-on effects due to the implementation of these new zonings should be properly assessed before they are officially used as statutory means for land use control. For example, in the case of “OU (Mixed Use)”, the implications on the Building (Planning) regulations would likely to be significant and an assessment of the impacts should be undertaken.
Inclusion of Planning Intentions in the Notes
As at this stage, members of the HKIP have expressed diverse views over the proposal of including planning intentions in the Notes. There are views expressed to put strong concerns over this proposal while there are also views expressing support to this new approach.
For those who expressed concerns emphasize that the Notes are currently written in mostly prescriptive tones which leave relatively little room for disputes over their interpretation. However, the planning intentions are mostly descriptive in nature. When they become statutory Notes, they may invite prolonged disputes and legal cases over certain wordings which cannot easily be defined, and hence would go against the objective of streamlining the planning application procedures.
For those who expressed support to this approach point out that the problem in the past when only the Notes (only the land uses permitted or requiring application) were statutory is not satisfactory. This past arrangement has opened up debates and making all the 'non-statutory' planning intentions almost toothless when challenged legally. Moreover, there is currently not possible for those who want to object to the Explanatory Statement of an OZP where the planning intentions are outlined because the planning intentions are not part of the statutory plan.
The issue is: we must have clear planning intentions specified in the plan forming part of the legal framework. Without this statutory backup for planning intentions, the plan is incomplete as a development control tool. There must be clarity, and therefore certainty, in the planning objectives and intentions of an OZP and they must be legally part of the plan.
Inclusion of the planning intention in the Notes of OZP such that the general public will have a formal channel to object is supported. The implementation issue that must be addressed is how this can be done to avoid prolonged disputes over their interpretation needs further consideration.
As the comprehensive review covers a lot of details, HKIP suggests that the Planning Department should invite practicing planners in the private sector to attend specific working sessions to identify operational implications of the proposals and discuss the above issues further.
Public Affairs Committee
Hong Kong Institute of Planners
3 September 2002