"Business" Zone Concept and Guidelines for Rezoning of Industrial Land


Planning Department (PlanD) has recently completed a study to review the planning framework for the reservation and provision of industrial land (the Study). The Study recommends that:

A consultation forum will be held in late November 1999. Your views on these recommendations are most valuable to us and will enable us to further shape and modify the planning framework for industrial land.



As part of the Study, three surveys involving a total of 174 buildings with over 4200 establishments have been undertaken It was found that:

In addition to the surveys, the Study has also reviewed the demand for the general industrial land taking into account the findings of the surveys as well as the latest economic factors. It is estimated that by year 2016, there may be a potential surplus of up to 4.2 million square metre of industrial floorspace (or up to 66 ha of land area). 

Note(1) 1990 has been chosen as the cut-off year for the purpose of this study to differentiate the older buildings from the newer ones that are less than 10 years old and as the I-O concept was introduced in November 1989.



Meeting Market Needs

As reflected by the results of the surveys, the distinction between industrial and office uses is becoming blurred, particularly in the modern industrial buildings. Many manufacturing firms are no longer engaged in production activities but more office-oriented, whilst many office establishments such as import/export firms find the industrial buildings, which provide sufficient loading/unloading facilities and storage space, a suitable form of accommodation that meets their operational needs.

To cater for the accommodation needs of different business activities, PlanD proposes a new "Business" zone be introduced. The proposed "Business" zone is basically an employment zone to accommodate three main economic activities, i.e. clean industrial, general office and commercial uses.

From the land use point of view, these uses are compatible and thus can be co-located in the same building or same zone without the need for planning application. The exact development mix within the "Business" zone can be determined by the market.

The merits of the "Business" zone lies in its flexibility in property type and building usage which will enable the property market to more readily respond to the changing needs of the industrial/business sectors.

The "Business" zone is not intended to replace either the "Commercial" ("C") or "Industrial" ("I") zone. While the "Business" zone will accommodate the clean industrial and lower grade office/commercial uses (Figure 1), the demand for higher grade office/retail and hotel developments will still be met in the "C" zones and conventional industrial activities should remain in "I" zones.

figure 1 : business zone concept


New Buildings in the "Business" Zone

The "Business" zone can be applied to both new and existing buildings. It is proposed that new buildings upon development or re-development within "Business" zone should have the flexibility to be designed and used for either non-production based industrial, commercial or general office uses, or a combination of them, without requiring planning permission.

Existing Industrial Building in "Business Zone"

The "Business" zone concept can also be applicable to existing industrial buildings but they may have to be treated with greater caution. Conventional production activities, which are legitimate uses within existing industrial buildings, may be fire hazard prone while commercial and general office uses within the same building may attract members of the public who are unfamiliar with the fire escape routes. Therefore, it is proposed that these commercial/general office uses should be allowed if and only if they are separated from any remaining industrial production uses in the existing building, for example, by a buffer floor. In case no such separation of uses is provided to address the fire safety concerns, only non-polluting industries, offices directly related to industry and office uses not providing customer services (e.g. travel and employment agencies are considered as customer-based office uses) should be allowed for conversion of uses within existing industrial buildings in "Business" zone.

Implementation of the "Business" Zone

Table 1 suggests a list of examples of the types of uses that may be permitted in the proposed "Business" zone. We are now working on the Schedule of Uses for the "Business" zone for incorporation into the Notes of relevant Outline Zoning Plans. The draft Schedule will be submitted to the Town Planning Board for consideration in early 2000. 

Table 1: Uses anticipated in "Business" zone:

Uses Anticipated in "Business" Zone:

  • office
  • commercial
  • Non-polluting industry
  • administrative & managerial functions for industry
  • import & export office 
  • assembly, testing & quality control of products
  • research, development, training & design
  • high-tech pre-production & post-production process
  • data processing & IT
  • ervice & media production
  • sales & marketing
  • storage & distribution
  • showroom

Details on the implementation of "Business" zone, particularly in respect of lease enforcement, building and environmental controls, fire and structural safety, etc. are being examined by relevant departments and bureaux.

Accommodating Conventional Industries in "Industrial" Zone

Our survey findings have indicated that the manufacturing sector is still functional though less dominating. To minimize disruption to the economy and avoid massive job loss, "Industrial" zones in suitable areas should still be retained to provide an adequate supply of buildings for production-oriented uses. However, in the spirit of providing greater flexibility, it is proposed that office directly related to industrial uses would be permitted as of right in the "Industrial" zone without any restriction on the percentage of floorspace occupied.



The Study has estimated a potential surplus of up to 4.2 million square metre of industrial floorspace (about 66 ha of industrial land) by year 2016. PlanD will soon commence detailed area assessments on all industrial areas with a view to reducing the surplus industrial land by rezoning for other suitable uses. Appropriate industrial sites will also be identified for rezoning to "Business" zone. Stimulating redevelopment and achieving environmental improvement in the older industrial areas will be a priority.

Since the demand forecast for industrial land is trend-based and covers a period of 15 years during which economic circumstances may change, rezoning of the potential surplus should be done in a progressive manner and not all in one go.

Rezoning would need to take into account the district planning intention, surrounding land uses, environmental and traffic conditions, community and infrastructure provision, building conditions and redevelopment potential. The broad guidelines for consideration of rezoning industrial land are summarized in Table 2.



Before the concept of the "Business" zone is finalized and rezoning proposals are drawn, we wish to seek your views on the new zoning mechanism and the rezoning guidelines, for example:

We look forward to your participation at the consultation forum to be held on 27 November 1999 and to share your views with us on the "Business" zone concept and rezoning guidelines. Please also feel free to send your written comments, if any, to the following address on or before 31 December 1999:

Planning Studies and Standards Section
Planning Department
16/F North Point Government Offices, 
333 Java Road, North Point, Hong Kong
email: sspd@pland.gov.hk

Table 2: Consideration factors for rezoning of industrial land


Guidelines for Rezoning

Retention for "Industrial"
  1. premises which have low vacancy and are actively used for traditional production-oriented industrial activities;
  2. area where buildings are planned and developed up to modern standards for industrial operations;
  3. area with relatively high percentage of the local workforce engaged in manufacturing sector;
  4. area with little interface problems, i.e. isolated from residential or other sensitive developments;
  5. located in close proximity to industrial-support functions e.g. public cargo working area, container port, arterial roads etc; and
  6. the production-oriented industrial uses that exist therein are of a nature which may be difficult to be relocated.
Rezone for "Business"
  1. occupied by clusters of I-O buildings, industrial buildings with approvals for changes to commercial uses, and/or industrial buildings built to resemble office buildings in terms of design to achieve a critical mass. Based on the Office Land Development Strategy (OLDS) completed in May 1999, a cluster of 3 or more office buildings can create a "critical mass" which, due to agglomeration of economy, can further attract similar development in the adjoining areas;
  2. conveniently served by public transport and arterial road and close to rail stations or major public transport interchanges;
  3. the location is not suitable for residential development due to incompatible land uses within or adjoining the area or insurmountable environmental and traffic problems;
  4. area having some degree of interface problem with adjoining sensitive uses e.g. in between existing residential and industrial development so that the "Business" zone can act as a buffer; and
  5. a large extent of the existing buildings may have high vacancy or are in poor conditions requiring some incentive for change of use.
Rezone for "R(E)"
  1. isolated sites surrounded by mainly residential developments; 
  2. segregated from the industrial core by non-industrial activities, preferably at the fringe of the existing industrial area;
  3. location is suitable for residential development with environmental mitigation measures or sensitive building design (area suitable for residential use without any mitigation measure or sensitive design can be rezoned to "Residential (Group A)" directly) and;
  4. sites having reasonably good redevelopment potential e.g. buildings in single or a relatively unified ownership.
Rezone for "Comprehensive Development Area"
  1. a cluster of obsolete buildings with potential for larger scale redevelopment to achieve improvements to existing road pattern, environmental conditions, etc. and provide opportunities for the provision of GIC uses and/or open space required by the area; 
  2. location affected by multiple sources of adverse environmental impacts which cannot be removed unless by comprehensive redevelopment; and
  3. majority of land in single or relatively unified ownership or with reasonably good redevelopment potential.