Further Comments on Urban Renewal Authority Bill
Further Comments on Urban Renewal
- The Hong Kong Bar Association [the Bar] first commented on this
Bill in its paper of 1st December 1999 and attended a
meeting of the Bills Committee to present that paper on 14th
April 2000. That paper raised concerns as to inordinately wide purposes
clause and the general, non-urban renewal power proposed for the
URA; the prospect of blight and the absence of compensation for
blight; inconsistent compensation provisions under the various land
acquisition and resumption statutes, of which the URA Ordinance
will be one; the removal of compulsory negotiation prior to seeking
resumption (cf. the Land Resumption Ordinance, Cap. 124) and various
transitional provisions and bylaws.
- There having been further explanations given by Government, some
committee stage amendments proposed (including a statutory Appeal
Board, interposed between the proposal of a development project
and the decision of SPEL under s.21 by ss.23A and
23B) and certain changes proposed to the scale of compensation,
the Bar was asked on 28th February if it wished to comment
- The Bar’s comments below are divided into two: outstanding matters
and the new proposals.
- The Bar has seen no amendments to remedy either the non-specific,
non-urban renewal purpose in s.5(f) of the Bill or the unduly
broad and poorly-drafted power in s.6(1), commented on in
Part A of our first paper.
- We have seen no justification for either of these provisions as
they stand. They both appear to be contrary to principle (b)
stated by the Bills Committee in para. 9 of its latest Report. They
allow the URA to acquire land other than for the s.6(1) purpose.
The power granted to the Chief Executive by s.5(f) to direct
the URA as he may wish is not in any way restricted by the undertaking
given by SPEL to LegCo on 26th June 2000. Simply stating
that any such order must be laid on the Table, as with all other
subsidiary legislation, takes the matter no further.
- The Bar continues to believe and recommends that s.5(f)
be removed from the Bill and that s.5 and s.6(1) be
amended to make them congruent and restricted to the specific urban
renewal purposes of the URA set out in the second limb of s.6(1).
- The Bar regrets that the Government does not intend to take this
opportunity to make consistent the provisions and procedures for
compulsory acquisition of land and for compensation under the various
statutes dealing with the matter.
- It is clear (see paras. 41-43 of the latest Report of the Bills
Committee) that Government and Bills Committee members recognise
the probability of blight as a result of the URA pursuant
to the Bill, as pointed out in part B of the Bar’s first paper. It
is regrettable that Government has chosen not to recognise this
deprivation of property rights (in terms of value) by introducing
a right to compensation and a procedure for its recovery. SPEL’s
statement to LegCo on 26 June 2000 that the Government "fully
agrees" with the principle of protecting the interests of owners
is not borne out by this decision.
- The Bar’s concerns as to transitional arrangements set out in para.
23 of section C of our first paper have still not been addressed.
The proposed arrangements remain the same; the accrued rights of
persons soon to be, or currently negotiating acquisitions with the
LDC are to be taken away, apparently for reasons of expediency,
and the new URO procedure applied. This remains prima facie
wrong. The Bar maintains the concerns and recommendation
to delete s.30(8) set out in paras. 23 and 25(a) respectively
of our first paper.
- Similarly, the Bar maintains its concerns as to by-laws and recommendation
to amend s.29(2) in paras. 24 and 25(b) of our first
- The bulk of the material recently provided concerns the levels
of compensation to be paid upon acquisition by URA in default of
a reference to the Lands Tribunal to determine compensation. The
Bar notes that by use of the "fair value" plus allowances,
Government quietly continues to deny any "development"
or "hope" value to existing owners of property in a development
area. This feature is more acute given that URA – induced blight
may well already have depressed the "fair value" of their
property to be paid as compensation; blight for which there is no
right to compensation.
- The constitution of the newly-proposed Appeal Board (para. 46
of the latest Bill Committee report and proposed ss.23A and
23B of the Bill) seems rather odd to the Bar. Once again,
these will be persons appointed by and at the pleasure of the Chief
Executive to question the decision of SPEL, another appointee of
the Chief Executive. There is no requirement for members to have
any qualifications or experience. Notably, there is also no requirement
for members to declare any interest they may have on nomination
to an appeal board, which has the effect of rendering ss.23(12)
- The procedural time limits in s.23B are exceedingly short
for the preparation of a properly-drafted objection and to obtain
and instruct appropriate representation especially given that the
statute allows SPEL to sit on a proposal for years before approval.
The Bar therefore recommends that these procedural provisions
be revisited, and the time limits extended; and that the Appeal
Board should be given an express discretionary power to extend time
for the taking of any step or the doing of any act in the proceedings.
a. Proposes and powers of the URA; CE’s power
to direct the URA
b. Resumption and compensation; blight.
c. Transitional arrangements and by laws
d. Compensation formula
e. Appeal Board
Dated 7th March 2001
Hong Kong Bar Association