Town Planning Board not 'obsequious'
I refer to Alex Lo's column ("Planning watchdog on a tight leash", April 17) in which various doubts over the Town Planning Board are raised.
I am obliged to state the facts.
The article challenges my remarks at a board meeting that the board shall prepare plans for such areas as the chief executive may direct and about the Chief Executive in Council being the "fountainhead" in the statutory plan-making process, and questions if the board should be so "obsequious".
The board is established under the Town Planning Ordinance which stipulates (section 3(1)) that the board "shall undertake the systematic preparation of (a) draft plans for the lay-out of such areas of Hong Kong as the chief executive may direct…"; and "(b) draft development permission area plans of such areas of Hong Kong as the chief executive may direct."
The role of the Chief Executive in Council in planning matters was considered by Mr Justice Michael Hartmann.
He then in the case of Society for Protection of the Harbour Ltd v Chief Executive in Council and others, held that "During the course of the hearing it was said that, in terms of the Town Planning Ordinance, the legislature had seen fit to make the Chief Executive in Council 'the fountainhead' of planning matters, the source from which planning powers spring and are returned. That, I believe, must be so."
There is, hence, a legal basis to describe the Chief Executive in Council as the "fountainhead" in the planning process for the purposes of the Town Planning Ordinance.
Lo also criticises as "nonsense" the remarks of the board's vice-chairman that the board needs to work within the policies of the government.
In the same judgment mentioned above, the judge held that the "Board must discharge its duties within the strategic framework set by government".
In preparing plans for the lay-out of such areas of Hong Kong as the chief executive may direct, members of the board exercise their independent minds and take into account all relevant planning considerations.
Any allegation that they rubber stamp is unfounded.
Thomas Chow, chairman, Town Planning Board