Land Administration Practices and the Redevelopment of Franchised Bus Depots: An Implicit Consideration Analysis of the Terms of Bus Franchises and Land Leases

Principal Investigator: Lawrence W.C. LAI (PI), K.W. CHAU (Co-PI)
Funding body: PPR


Have there been any true concessions in the government land conversion process that have favoured franchised bus operators? Through an examination of the conditions of the franchises and the terms of the relevant land leases, this study tries to verify or debunk the claim that there has been government favoritism to business monopolies.


  1. Find out if the terms of the Crown (Government) Leases, post-1933 conditions of the franchises, Conditions of Modifications/ Surrender and Re-grant for KMB and CMB’s garages, depots, and workshops provide specific concessions regarding land acquisitions for subsequent modifications to favour other uses.
  2. Evaluate the environmental gains/losses of converting bus depots into non-depot uses and their relocation to other places.
  3. Evaluate if there is any evidence of gain/loss in operational efficiency upon the relocation of the depots from their original to their replacement sites.
  4. Evaluate the credibility of land administration practices for changing the use of old bus depots and make recommendations for reforms when they are deemed useful.


  • Information on the addresses of the depots was obtained from specialist books on Hong Kong buses backed by a thorough search of the telephone directories.
  • Land conveyance records of the depots from the Land Registry were examined.
  • Depending on the availability of subsequent lease modifications for these sites, the “conditions” of sale or grantexecuted obtained from the Public Records Office.were also analyzied.


  • Our study found that the sources of the sites for depot use by franchised bus companies were originally either on privately-owned sites acquired second-hand from the land market or on sites purchased directly from the government’s public auctions (paid with a substantial sum) of industrial sites.
  • We found no instance in the conditions of sale in which the land use was limited to “franchised bus depots” or “bus depots”.
  • We can deduce that there should have been no major environmental problems when the government allocated depot sites under a system of contractual planning.
  • We cannot draw any direct conclusion from the changes of depot numbers or dispersal.

Conclusion and Policy Impact

  • There was no government concessions to public bus companies in land allocation of bus depot land or lease modfications for these depots.
  • Redevelopment of bus depots generally had planning gains.
  • This study should dispell suspicions about government favoritism to bus companies by granting them cheap land or allowing them to convert depots into real estate development at sub-market premia.
  • It calls for greater government transparency in franchise conditions and STT terms, which have hiherto been kept secret between government and the bus operators.

Repeated Planning Applications by Developers under Statutory Zoning: A Hong Kong Case Study of Delays in Private Residential Development

Principal Investigator: Lawrence W.C. LAI (PI), Daniel C.W. HO (Co-PI),  K.W. CHAU (Co-PI)
Funding body: PPR-CPU


Is the apparently long and complicated development process of residential units under Comprehensive Development Area (CDA) zoning due to a failure to obtain Town Planning Board (TPB) approvals? Or is it the developers’ strategy of hoarding land for the better timing of the sale of property units? Or is it to improve building design?


  1. Find out the number of planning applications and amount of time involved for each CDA project before they started construction from the date of the first valid planning application made.
  2. Find out if the developer’s amendments to the planning proposals involved innovative responses to departmental comments for each CDA project to start construction from the date of the first valid planning application.
  3. Find out if the time taken by a developer to get final planning permission to commence construction for each CDA project with the first valid planning application was due to business innovation to cater to sustainable development or strategic behaviour.


Publicly available TPB data, property transaction, Master Layout Plan (MLP) from the Planning Department were used to test various refutable empirical hypotheses.

Study Coverage: 01-1-1990 -31-10-2015
CDA projects: 380 (~200,000 units)

Residential CDA built and occupied: 65
(~100,000 units or around 50% of approved total)


  • Of the 2951 applications studied, it takes an average of 8 years (max. 17 years) to complete CDA residential projects from the first planning approval.
  • Most changes in the MLPs following new applications were of minor design significance.
  • Slight reduction in recorded number of domestic units from 108,401 initially planned to 102,3134 actually built was found.

Land Summary:

a. Total area of all CDA sites for all years 724 ha
b. Total area of 65 developed CDA sites 278 ha
c. Undeveloped and potential residential area 446 ha (a – b)

The approximate housing capacity of undeveloped CDA sites is around 450,000 persons.


No direct evidence of deliberate delays or hoarding were found. Difficulties in land assembly and uncertainty of the property markets are the usual reasons given by practitioners we consulted as the most decisive factors in the lengthy process of development.

Policy Recommendations

  • Increase the statutory toleration of the percentage of change to reduce the need for “Class B amendments”.
  • Implementation of a levy on MLP submissions.
  • Standardize and simplify developers’ proposal statements and MLPs to a mandatory Town Planning Board template.