Development curbs are years away: planner

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 27 June, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 27 June, 2007, 12:00am

Areas facing intense development pressure, such as the waterfront, will be the first to face restrictions under a government plan to impose curbs, which, a top planning official said yesterday would take years and had to be done in secret.

Speaking to legislators, Planning Director Ava Ng Tse Suk-ying did not say how the government would tackle developers who rushed through their applications knowing that curbs were in store.

'It will take a number of years for us to complete the review. We will not disclose the timetable as it must be in strict confidence, or we would compromise the impact of imposing development restrictions,' Mrs Ng told a meeting of the Legislative Council's planning, lands and works panel.

She said the impact of restrictions on views, traffic and air flow had to be studied.

Civic Party legislator Audrey Eu Yuet-mee said developers who rushed their planning would get their construction projects approved by the time the review was done.

'The review will be meaningless. Do you have any plan to stop this from happening?' she asked. Mrs Ng gave no response.

The Town Planning Board is reviewing all outline zoning plans to study whether it needs to impose restrictions on them, in light of a strong public outcry against high-rise and high-density developments.

The board announced this month that it would amend North Point's outline zoning plan. It proposed putting a 100-metre cap on new buildings constructed on the waterfront site of the former North Point estate.

But critics were quick to point out that height restrictions alone would not solve the problem of developers building wall-like towers to maximise sea views.

They demanded a reduction of plot ratios, which govern the amount of floor area developers can build on a site.

Mrs Ng defended the decision, saying height restrictions were more urgent.

She also said cutting the plot ratio was more complicated and would take longer to complete.

Of 108 existing outline zoning plans, 49 have restrictions on plot ratio and building height, in areas including Kowloon Tong and Aberdeen.

Legislators urged the administrators to be transparent about when the restrictions would be imposed, and in which districts; otherwise, small developers and the public might be disadvantaged.

They also called on the government to improve urban design by imposing restrictions through land lease and sales conditions.

Tall order

Of 108 existing outline zoning plans, the number with restrictions on plot ratio and building height is: 49