Property tycoons take on planners
The body that represents property developers has gone to court to challenge the Town Planning Board's building restrictions in four high-density areas, claiming that the authority has been acting unfairly.
In a writ filed in the High Court on Tuesday, the Real Estate Developers Association (REDA) has applied for a judicial review of the board's decision not to recommend relaxation of Planning Department restrictions in the four areas - Wan Chai, Mong Kok, Yau Ma Tei and Kowloon Bay.
The writ states that REDA is making the application in the 'broad interest of Hong Kong as a whole' and 'in the interest of maintaining an efficient, fair and sustainable regime for development'.
In a statement last night, the association added that 'the judicial review is an unfortunate, but necessary, step to take to ensure that the board operates in a fair and reasonable manner, and in accordance with the rules of natural justice'.
The association is seeking the court's help in overturning decisions made between April and May, when the board decided not to propose amendments to 'spot restrictions' limiting building height and the conversion of private land into public footpaths without compensation.
REDA is chaired by Keith Kerr, former chairman of Swire Properties, who in April took over from gambling mogul Stanley Ho Hung-sun. Its vice-presidents include Cheung Kong (Holdings) chairman Li Ka-shing, New World Group chairman Cheng Yu-tung and Lee Shau-kee, chairman and managing director of Henderson Land Development.
'The approach taken to the restrictions in the four draft outline zoning plans is part of a trend in recent years towards increasing levels of control... including extensive building height restrictions,' the writ reads, accusing the board of micro-management.
It said the board had failed to give 'full and genuine consideration' to its representations when the draft outline zoning plans were made available for public inspection.
The board's meetings were usually long, which meant members made 'very important decisions' under pressure of time.
The association also alleged that, in rejecting its comments, the board had 'copied' widely from reasons submitted by the Planning Department, undermining its own independent judgment. It says the board relied on 'very broad and generalised' air-ventilation analysis, a relatively new science, as a basis for imposing planning restrictions.
The writ also asks the court to grant an interim order putting on hold the submission of the four draft outline zoning plans to the Chief Executive in Council, pending the outcome of a judicial review.
A spokeswoman for the Town Planning Board said the board would not comment on REDA's writ as it involved legal proceedings currently under way.
According to the Planning Department, the procedures for public inspection of the amendments proposed in the four outline zoning plans have ended. While the board will hold a hearing to handle public comments on the amended plans for Wan Chai and Kowloon Bay, other plans are awaiting approval from the board and the Executive Council.
The maximum angle of deflection which buildings can have to prevailing wind direction, under the Urban Design Guidelines