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Land Development Opportunities during a Pandemic

Updated: Jul 31, 2020

The Coronavirus Pandemic has affected our every aspect of our lives, from our own personal habits to the larger economy. Despite the ongoing events, there are still different development opportunities that are up and coming and has developed in to several trends that will be identified in the latter of the article.

Landowners or operators submit planning applications to the Town Planning Board for various land use options in order to seek different development opportunities. The most popular types of planning application cases under at this stage involves: building warehouses and logistics centers, converting zoned agricultural land to operate as recreational facilities, relaxation of development height restrictions, redevelopment of areas zoned as “CDA” (Comprehensive Development Area), and change of use for areas zoned as “GIC” (Government, Institution or Community).

Currently, there are many local operators who want to use agricultural land for warehouses and logistics centers. This reflects the trend that Hong Kong still has the demand for these two types of developments. However, land available for such usage is very limited. A successful approval for these two types of projects in areas zoned as “Agricultural” land are generally very low, and if successful, impressive.

Secondly, there is still a demand in the market for the land used for the conversion of motorhomes in recent years. Since such uses are of a tourism project nature, it’s applied usage is under the "Recreation" or "Agricultural Land" zone. It is not uncommon for such applications to be approved as long as the applicant complies with the relevant regulations on equipment and operations

It is relatively common to see planning application cases concerning relaxation of development height restrictions. Probably due to Industrial Revitalization Scheme 2.0, the general demand on relaxation of plot ratio and building height restrictions has increased. ), On the basis of approval, the TPB will generally consider the application taking into consideration whether or not the proposal will bring planning benefits to the community (Planning Merit).

In addition, applications for dividing up a larger "Comprehensive Development Areas" (CDA) in to smaller sections are also an increasingly common category in planning applications. Due to the intention of the CDA being to achieve a more coordinated and rational planning via multiple ownership patterns, the case it is often fickle to deal with.

This hinders many stakeholders in the area and discourages many development opportunities. However, the market still has the demand for this type of application. Nevertheless, the TPB will continue to approve applications on the basis of whether or not it violates the planning intent of the CDA area. Successful examples so far can be considered rare, unless initiated by the government.

Finally, due to the constant need for more space, “GIC” (Government, Institution or Community) sites have been increasingly approved for other uses over the years. The pandemic has only urged the TPB to continue encouraging community development and foster a cohesive society.

I believe that as we all do our personal part in preventing the spread of the pandemic, the opportunities in development opportunities will continue to emerge.

Frank Wong is the managing partner of planning and development at PRUDEN Group

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