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Legislative Council Question 7 : "Unauthorised rooftop structures in factory buildings" by the Hon Lee Wing-tat and a written reply by the Secretary for Housing, Planning and Lands, Mr Michael Suen, in the Legislative Council

Following is a question by the Hon Lee Wing-tat and a written reply by the Secretary for Housing, Planning and Lands, Mr Michael Suen, in the Legislative Council today (November 15):

Question:

On the problem of turning the rooftops of factory buildings to residential use, will the Administration inform this Council:

(1) What is the estimated number of existing cases regarding rooftop structures in factory buildings? Please list out the figures for the 18 Districts.

(2) Over the past three years, how many inspections have been conducted on the factory buildings each year? How many cases of rooftop structures have been recorded in these buildings each year? How many cases were prosecuted and how many of them were successful? What was the penalty levied? For the cases that were not prosecuted or prosecution was unsuccessful, what were the reasons?

(3) If a rooftop structure in a factory building is identified during an inspection, what are the procedures to be taken before initiating prosecution? What is the average time required?

(4) What are the ways to contain the proliferation of rooftop structures in factory buildings? Will the Administration consider adopting some punitive measures, for instance, imposing restrictions on the sale or assignment of flats with illegal structures in factory buildings?

Answer:

President,

My reply to the four parts of the question is as follows:

(1) The Administration does not have the statistics and record by district on the number of unauthorised rooftop structures (URSs) in factory buildings, and so cannot provide the requested figures.

(2) In 2004, 2005 and 2006 (up to September 2006), the Lands Department (LandsD) conducted 1 964, 2 959 and 1 588 inspections respectively of factory buildings in various districts, and identified 7, 34 and 21 cases respectively involving URSs. These cases were mainly in Tsuen Wan, Kwai Tsing, Kwun Tong, San Po Kong, Sham Shui Po and Hung Hom.

If the URSs are found to have breached the land lease, LandsD will consider taking lease enforcement action, including the issuance of letters to the owners concerned to request the removal of the URSs. In the past three years, a total of 11 advisory letters were issued.

The Fire Services Department (FSD) also conducts inspections on industrial buildings (including factory buildings and godowns). In the past three years, FSD conducted 3 284, 2 819 and 3 436 inspections respectively on such buildings. If URSs are found during inspections, FSD will refer the cases to BD for follow-up action.

Over the past three years, the Buildings Department (BD) investigated 64 complaints concerning factory buildings with URSs, and issued 75 removal orders during the period. With respect to 36 of the orders, the owners have removed the unauthorised structures voluntarily. BD has initiated prosecution actions against 3 cases for which the issued orders have not been complied with. The owners concerned have been fined $2 000 to $5 500.

(3) If BD identifies URSs in factory buildings which pose danger to life and property, it will issue removal orders to the owners concerned.

BD generally requires an owner to commence the concerned demolition works within 30 days, and complete such works within 60 days. Upon expiry of the specified period, BD will consider initiating prosecution actions against the owner if he/she fails to comply with the order without reasonable excuse.

If LandsD identifies URSs in a factory building, it will investigate whether the usage has violated the lease conditions, and will also consult BD and FSD to ascertain whether the URSs pose any imminent danger.

LandsD handles cases that pose imminent danger with priority and takes lease enforcement action immediately. As regards other cases, LandsD issues warning letters to the owners concerned, requesting them to stop putting the premises to unauthorised uses.

(4) To curb all types of unauthorised building works (UBWs) that are under construction or newly constructed, BD conducts inspection within 48 hours upon receipt of a case and take immediate enforcement action, with a view to stopping the proliferation of UBWs.

Regarding existing URSs in factory buildings, apart from cases involving enforcement actions, BD will for other cases issue warning notices to owners. If the owners concerned fail to remove the UBWs within the specified period, the warning notices will be registered in the Land Registry. Such notices will only be de-registered when the UBWs are demolished. This is to allow the public (including potential buyers of the premises) to be informed of the irregularities associated with the premises.

Moreover, BD has liaised with the Law Society of Hong Kong, requesting the Society to remind its members that they should not engage in any sale or assignment of URSs. They should also explain to their clients that such structures are illegal and the owners concerned would have to bear the legal responsibilities.

Ends/Wednesday, November 15, 2006
Issued at HKT 13:11

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