Planning board meetings 'should be open to public'

PUBLISHED : Monday, 24 November, 2003, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 24 November, 2003, 12:00am

Transparency trend is irreversible, says veteran member

A veteran member of the Town Planning Board has called for meetings to be open to the public.

Anthony Cooray, who teaches constitution and planning law at City University, said: 'The trend towards greater public participation and transparency is irreversible.

'Hong Kong is moving towards this. It is all very logical to conclude that the Town Planning Board meeting has to be open to the public at some stage.'

Amid increasing demands for transparency, the government has said it will amend the 64-year-old Town Planning Ordinance.

Two attempts were made in 1996 and 2000 to modernise the law, but failure to reach a consensus among lawmakers and the community forced the government to retract the bills.

The government has put forward amendments to the ordinance over three stages, with stage one starting this year on the streamlining of the town planning process and the openness of the planning system.

Issues relating to the operation of the Town Planning Board will be dealt with in the second stage, which will begin during the next Legislative Council session.

Professor Cooray said: 'I am not a member of the government. I don't know how they are going to amend the bill. But the three-stage amendment it has set out shouldn't take five years to complete.'

He envisaged objections from property developers on the proposal to open meetings because it would allow the public to get a glimpse of their research and business plans. 'I understand the developers' concern and respect them. But it will be illogical if we just open some meetings and refuse to open others.'

The professor, who has served on the board for seven years, also supports the suggestion of having a separate body to oversee planning of the harbour.

He believed that harbour planning could be carried out by an independent authority with representatives drawn from the business community, professionals and the public.

Professor Cooray suggested another option: a new Town Planning Board committee on harbour planning.

At present, there are two committees, with one overlooking metro planning and the other specialising in rural and new town planning.