Hong Kong’s first dedicated off-site rebar cut-and-bend facility to serve both public and private sector construction projects is in danger of being derailed by the threat of a judicial review by leading developer Sun Hung Kai Properties (0016).
The Rural and New Town Planning Committee of the Town Planning Board decided last Friday to defer a decision at the request of the planning consultant for the applicant, the Civil Engineering and Development Department.
The reason given by the consultant was that CEDD was currently discussing with government departments on how to resolve comments received on the application.
During the three-week period of public consultation last month, a total of 110 comments were received for the section 16 application.
Construction Post has inspected the comments and found that that most of them, if not all, were opposed to the plan to set up a prefabrication yard at a site near the wetlands of Nam Sang Wai in Yuen Long.
The site, which is heavily wooded, is bound on all sides by major roads such as the San Tin Highway with hardly any residential property in the immediate vicinity.
However Sun Hung Kai Properties (0016) through its subsidiary Strong Bright has 2.3 million square feet of residential units under construction nearby across San Tam Road.
Lands Department records show the developer executed a land exchange with premium set at HK$7 billion in August 2011 to allow development.
Not surprisingly it has raised objections to the project and has gone to the length of enclosing legal opinion from barrister Anthony Ismail in its comment.
According to the legal opinion, the Town Planning Board had no power to grant planning permission because the present zonings in force at the site, open space and road, did not permit rebar prefabrication as an industrial use.
Open space zoning did permit industrial use but not the type of industrial use that required large free-standing structures which the prefabrication yard would have, the legal opinion said.
“We have been advised that if the Board decides to entertain the application and grant permission, the decision of the board is subject to judicial review and may be quashed by the court,” Bright Strong’s comment said.
The legal opinion however gave a solution by saying that the zonings would have to be amended to say “special industrial area” or “other specified uses” first.
In the Town Planning Ordinance, requests to amend zonings are carried out through section 12A applications.
In support of the project, CEDD’s planning statement said the prefabrication yard would serve multiple clients, get better quality control, provide steel testing services, act as a training facility, reduce steel wastage and control costs.
In mid-2012, an interdepartmental territorial search involving the Development Bureau, CEDD, Planning Department and Lands Department was carried out to find a suitable site.
“The Application Site is government-owned land which will be tendered out to qualified operators in future,” the planning statement said.
It added planning conditions would be included in any tender documents and future operators’ long-term site operations would be managed by CEDD to ensure compliance.
“The operation will start as soon as the land for the site becomes available and an operator is identified. The land disposal arrangements are under consideration at the moment,” a Development Bureau spokeswoman said.
According to CEDD’s plans, the yard would have a workshop of size 44 by 108 metres with four cut-and-bend production lines, an office building, covered storage areas and generator station.
The anticipated annual output is about 100,000 tonnes.
The site has already attracted the attention of some rebar fabricators.
When Construction Post’s correspondent visited the site last Friday, he ran into two representatives from leading Singapore steel supplier NatSteel who were studying the site.
Executive Vice President for marketing Melvin Choo Teow Lim said the company was looking to bring its rebar prefabrication business to Hong Kong but finding land for it has been difficult.
He said Hong Kong was about 30 years behind Singapore with regard to off-site rebar cut-and-bend.
A temporary cut-and-bend facility built by the Leighton/Gammon joint venture is already in operation at the West Kowloon Reclamation to serve the West Kowloon Terminus Station North site for the Express Rail Link project.
The planning statement said another facility is operating from a converted industrial building at Dai Shing Street in Tai Po Industrial Estate.