The Lands Department will this month take the unprecedented step of making public how it assesses land premiums in an effort to increase transparency and remove misunderstandings. The decision comes on the heels of repeated criticism of the department's valuations, and the latest dispute over the premium charged for the Kowloon Station phase-three residential development. However acting lands director Nigel Burley said the move was unrelated to those issues. He said it was part of Secretary for Planning, Environment and Lands Gordon Siu Kwing-chue's desire to boost transparency. The Department was planning to hold a press briefing later this month to outline the way it assesses land premiums for new developments, he added. Land premiums are paid to the Government by developers to cover changes in land use. 'We want to open our house and tell the media how valuation is working,' Mr Burley said. Analysts said it was not uncommon to see land premium disagreements between the Government and developers delay developments. The latest example is the Kowloon Station phase three project, which was withdrawn by the Mass Transit Railway on Tuesday. Developers claim the proposed $2.8 billion premium was 'too aggressive' and was responsible for the withdrawal, but the Lands Department insisted it was reasonable. The decision to make public the assessment method was welcomed by analysts who said it was a good move. Mr Burley said it would be the first time the Department had told the public about its assessment of premiums. 'We've done this for the Executive Council, we've done this for the crime prevention department of ICAC, we've done this for the Audit Department. But I don't think we've done this for the public before,' he said. Mr Burley said one of the biggest misunderstandings over land premiums was that the amount charged by the Government would have a direct impact on flat prices. 'It is totally wrong,' he said. Flat pricing was determined by market conditions after developments were completed, about two to three years after premium agreements were settled between the Lands Department and developers. A project could not generate buying interest if the developer priced the units out of the market. This was especially true in a buyers' market when purchasers had more choice. Therefore, land premiums had no direct relation to flat prices. Dresdner Kleinwort Benson property analyst Terry Ip said it was important for the Lands Department to come up with fair premium assessments because the results would significantly affect Government revenues. Warburg Dillon Read chief property analyst Franklin Lam said more transparency would be positive as it would help avoid arguments in upcoming developments such as Cyberport and the remaining airport railway developments. Meanwhile the Land Registry said yesterday that it was pushing ahead with strategic changes which would 'fundamentally transform' the way the department operates. Land Registrar Anthony Cooper said the plan would involve reducing costs, cutting red tape and simplifying procedures relating to the central registration system and the land title system.