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JSM, acting on behalf of a subsidiary of Swire Properties Limited, succeeded in the Court of Appeal in a planning case involving the "Castle Steps Site", a site at the intersection of Castle Steps, Seymour Road and Castle Road in the Mid-Levels district.

The case, which has created a lot of public interest, involved an application to the Town Planning Board (TPB) for relaxation of the height and plot ratio restrictions (and therefore an increase in the permitted gross floor area) of the site.

Under the relevant outline zoning plan (OZP), a portion of the site was subject to a height restriction of 12 storeys and a plot ratio of 5, whilst the remaining part of the site was unrestricted. As a result of the decision of the Court of Appeal, Swire is now permitted to develop a 54-storey residential building with a plot ratio of 9 on the Castle Steps Site.

The Court of Appeal's decision is one of the most significant planning law decisions in recent years. The court makes it clear that the TPB must not confuse its two different roles under the Town Planning Ordinance (TPO), namely, those of "plan making" and "plan approval".

Lead Lawyer:  FK Au