A Brief Recollection of 30 Years of the Planners Registration Board
Thirty years have passed since the Planners Registration Board (PRB) was set up in 1992. The establishment of PRB can be traced back to the early 1990s when consensus was reached that nine professions in Hong Kong would manage themselves on the principle of professional autonomy and self-regulation under the purview of respective registration ordinances. Alongside with equivalent ordinances for built environment professionals including architects, surveyors, engineers and landscape architects, the Planners Registration Ordinance was enacted in 1991 via a Private Bill at the Legislative Council. For those who wonder how the appellation “Registered Professional Planner” (R.P.P.) was chosen instead of “Registered Professional Town Planner” or “Registered Professional Urban Planner”, anecdotal evidence suggested that it was an attempt to raise the profile of town/urban planners by guiding the public to use the term “Planner” exclusively to refer to our profession and therefore the word “town” or “urban” was not included.
PRB adopted a simple structure comprising not less than nine members serving a term of no more than four years and can be continuously appointed for a maximum of eight years. In addition, one member shall be appointed by the Chief Executive. Going beyond its basic functions of admitting new R.P.P.s and ascertaining that R.P.P.s possess relevant experience to practise in Hong Kong, PRB has evolved with the rising expectation from planning professionals and the society as a whole.
Cross-boundary recognition of professional qualifications has been a focus of PRB’s initiatives in the past decade. With the rapid economic growth in the Mainland and increased collaborations between Mainland cities and the two Special Administrative Regions, mutual recognition of professional planning qualifications were tested under the Closer Economic Partnership Arrangement (CEPA) from 2005 to 2009. Representatives from both PRB and HKIP were involved in the collaboration process. As Kenneth To, our past Chairperson from 2005 to 2006, recalled, “Mr Jimmy Leung, Mrs Ava Ng and myself, each representing HKIP, Planning Department (PlanD) and PRB respectively, attended numerous meetings with our Mainland counterparts… On some occasions, the three of us rushed to Chek Lap Kok after work to catch the last flight to Beijing, and then checked in, at chilling mid-night, at a hotel near enough to the then Ministry of Construction so that we could walk over for an early morning meeting.” Subsequently, HKIP membership was identified as the suitable qualification for the purpose of professional recognition for a trial period of five years.
Sixteen years later in 2021, another round of cross-boundary recognition was initiated under the impetus of Guangzhou-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area (GBA) development, tapping into Development Bureau’s established systems in securing the professional standard and liability of Hong Kong’s firms and professionals who are allowed to acquire equivalent Mainland qualifications for practising. The process was originally spearheaded by HKIP, and PRB later participated in fleshing out details for the scheme, inviting applications from interested members and facilitating the recognition process. The certification presentation for the first batch of 29 R.P.P.s was held on 8 November 2021 witnessed by the Deputy Secretary for Development of HKSAR, the Deputy Director-General of the Liaison Office of the Central People’s Government in HKSAR, the Legislative Council member for Architectural, Surveying, Planning and Landscape and the Deputy Director-General of the Qianhai Authority. The second batch of 18 R.P.P.s was subsequently recognised in August 2022. Success was attained to a lesser extent at the provincial level which requires individuals to be associated with a qualified Mainland organisation and can only be involved in non-statutory planning work. As for other parts in the GBA, discussions have recently been initiated with Nansha.
Enhancing R.P.P.s’ role in the development process is another focus of PRB with more noticeable achievement being made in recent years. PRB has worked closely with PlanD to explore ways to leverage upon the unique advantage of R.P.P.s in handling planning applications especially in helping to speed up the development process. Methods discussed include but not limited to shortening vetting time of applications represented by R.P.P.s. Other processes under consideration relate to the discharge of planning approval conditions by R.P.P.s (e.g. for temporary development applications in rural areas etc.). With strong support by PlanD during the one-year trial run period from July 2021, the Streamlined Vetting Procedures for Planning Application was issued in July this year to incentivise project proponents pursuing planning applications to engage R.P.P.s to represent them.
Collecting voices from R.P.P.s and reflecting them to concerned authorities especially PlanD and the Town Planning Board (TPB) has been another major PRB task. From improving the clarity of planning application forms to ascertaining required information in the forms, PRB seeks to become a bridge between planning practitioners in Hong Kong and the Government. Despite being a lengthy process, measures to improve the planning applications process and the submission of planning applications to fulfil planning conditions were explored and put into practice.
Voices have been heard about expectations on PRB to provide more services to members. PRB is mindful of distinguishing the role of PRB from that of HKIP such that the two organisations can complement instead of competing with each other. For a long time, HKIP serves as the professional body that sustains and enhances in general professional competency of its member while PRB is mainly for ascertaining their local experience in planning practice. With increasing Bureau-led effort in developing professional services in the region and the bigger role of R.P.P.s in the planning processes, PRB will work with HKIP to timely disseminate information regarding professional recognition together with the opportunities and responsibilities of R.P.P.s.
PRB as an organisation has also evolved with time. Mirroring the general demography of the industry, women have a relatively high representation in PRB as compared to counterparts of other built environment-related professions. Among the 16 past and current PRB chairpersons, six (38%) of them are female, and the number could go up to 50% if counting just the last ten terms. Female R.P.P.s also represent 45% of the current membership as compared to just about one-fifth in the 1990s. The 100th meeting of PRB was held on 15 May 2019 and the membership renewal process went paperless during the same term. In late 2022, a complete revamp of PRB’s website was kicked off to further strengthen communications with existing and aspiring R.P.P.s and to enhance its appeal and user-friendliness.
Looking ahead, with closer regional collaboration, parallel development of the Harbour and Northern Metropolises and active urban renewal efforts happening at the same time, ample opportunities for as well as associated expectations on professional planners are anticipated. They warrant a re-visit to the way we endorse and upkeep the professional capabilities of our members and promote their continuous professional development. For example, with the strong influence of the regional context in terms of both cross-boundary coordination in spatial and infrastructure planning and GBA project opportunities for planners, should the definition of “local experience” in the requirement for registration be extended to cover the GBA? With a major portion of our members in practice being involved in development control, how can we work with HKIP to enrich our skill set in tackling the complexity of strategic and spatial planning with a regional perspective and stimulating discussions regarding city development in the society? With the increasing mobility of people in the contemporary world, how can we ensure a constant supply of talent to our industry while securing their local knowledge and involvement in local professional bodies? By listening to voices of R.P.P.s and working closely with the planning authorities in both Hong Kong and the wider region, PRB endeavours to uphold the professional competency of R.P.P.s and open up new opportunities for them.
(Special thanks to the past board members who contributed their thoughts and made this recollection possible.)
Planners Registration Board
The meeting schedule of the Registration Committee in 2023 for consideration of applications for new and renewal of registration as R.P.P. is as follows:
Late applications may not be considered in the immediate Registration Committee meeting.
|Deadline for Submission of Application
|Registration Committee Meeting
31 Mar 2023 (Fri)
27 Oct 2023 (Fri)
12 Apr 2023 (Wed)
15 Nov 2023 (Wed)
About 40 RPPs have acquired professional qualifications for providing services in Nansha
We are very pleased to announce about 40 RPPs have acquired professional qualifications for providing services in Nansha.
The announcement in Nansha Authority can be found at
http://www.gzns.gov.cn/zwgk/tzgg/content/post_8973725.html and http://www.gzns.gov.cn/zwgk/tzgg/content/post_8844574.html
The latest list of RPPs registered in Nansha can be found here.
Please welcome the following new R.P.P.s
LI YEE TING
LAM YEE LOK ENOCH
CHAU KING FUNG
LAM CHIN CHIN
HO NGA SUM CLARICE
LO KATHY HAU YAN
FUNG KA LOK
HO JOSEPH JUNIOR
LAU KING YAT
WONG MAN KWAN
TANG WAI CHEONG