Following is a question by the Hon Ambrose Lau and a reply by the Secretary for Housing, Planning and Lands, Mr Michael Suen, in the Legislative Council today (December 17):
It has been reported that at least one hundred cargo compartments of lorries used as garbage containers are placed on the streets in the territory each day. These cargo compartments not only block traffic flow and threaten the safety of vehicles and pedestrians, but also cause environmental nuisances. The Lands Department has pointed out that the placing of cargo compartments on government land requires prior approval of the Department. In this regard, will the Government inform this Council:
(a) apart from the Lands Department, whether other government departments responsible for overseeing road traffic, environmental hygiene and road construction have exercised control over the cargo compartments being placed on roadsides or pavements; if they have, of the details; if not, the reasons for that;
(b) of the total number of applications for placing cargo compartments on the streets received by the authorities over the past three years, and the total number of persons prosecuted for unauthorized placing of cargo compartments on the streets; if the authorities have not instituted prosecutions, of the reasons for that; and
(c) whether the authorities will consider treating the unauthorized placing of cargo compartments on the streets as illegal parking, littering or causing obstructions on passageways, so that the Police Force, the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department or the relevant departments may prosecute the owners of the cargo compartments concerned?
Skips (or cargo compartments) placed on streets or at roadsides are mostly used as temporary storage for construction waste generated from fitting-out or modification works in nearby buildings, pending transportation to landfill sites for dumping. As skips are normally not left for more than two to three days, their impact on traffic and pedestrians is brief. The fitting-out and construction trades have a practical need for these skips. Besides, their use helps reduce the dumping of construction waste on streets, which may cause environmental hygiene and traffic problems. This issue is now being addressed and resolved mainly through the street management mechanism in each district.
My replies to the three parts of the question are as follows:
(a) At present, there is no specific legislation to deal with skips being placed on streets. In general, such cases are regarded as illegal occupation of government land and dealt with by the relevant department under the Land (Miscellaneous Provisions) Ordinance (Cap. 28), which covers all cases of unauthorized occupation of government land, including the placing of skips on streets. The Lands Department may issue a licence to a person for occupation of government land under section 4 of the Ordinance. Under section 6(1) of the same Ordinance, the Lands Department may post a notice requiring the person to cease occupation of the land before a specified date. The Lands Department will normally give one working day's notice to the owners, to remove their skips from the streets.
If the placing of skips on streets or at roadsides causes environmental hygiene problem, the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department may serve on the person concerned a nuisance notice, requiring him to abate the nuisance within a specified period under sections 12 and 127 of the Public Health and Municipal Services Ordinance (Cap.132). If skips obstruct any street cleansing operation, the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department will serve a notice on the owners, requiring removal within a specified period under section 22 of the same ordinance.
In addition, any article (including skips) placed on a street by any person, causing obstruction, inconvenience or danger to other members of the public or vehicles, the Police will take appropriate action under sections 4A and 32 of the Summary Offences Ordinance (Cap.228).
(b) Over the past three years, the Lands Department has not received any application for placing skips on streets. The number of complaints received by concerned departments against the placing of skips on streets are as follows:
Lands Department 218 cases
Food and Environmental Hygiene Department 82 cases
Hong Kong Police Force no record
Transport Department no record
Highways Department no record
Over the past three years, a total of 218 such notices have been put up by District Lands Offices under section 6(1) of the Land (Miscellaneous Provisions) Ordinance. Most of the skips were removed before the deadline. The remaining skips were removed and confiscated by the relevant District Lands Offices because their owners could not be traced.
(c) Skips do not fit in with the definition of "vehicle" under section 2 of the Road Traffic Ordinance (Cap 374) and hence those placed on streets cannot be regarded as illegally parked vehicles. As mentioned earlier, the problem may be dealt with under the street management mechanism within each district. The concerned departments held a meeting last month to discuss street management issues and how to handle more effectively the problem of skips placed on street. It was agreed that, upon receiving such complaints, the Police would assess whether there is an urgency or serious impact on traffic. If so, enforcement action would be taken by the Police to remove them.
Where no traffic obstruction is caused, the Police would inform the concerned District Lands Office, which would post a notice under the Land (Miscellaneous Provisions) Ordinance, requiring the owner to remove the skip within one working day. Should the skip remain there after the deadline, the District Lands Office would arrange for its removal by a contractor, with a view to rectifying the situation within three working days.
Ends/Wednesday, December 17, 2003