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Legislative Council Question 10 : "Overhanging advertisement signboards" by the Hon Raymond Ho 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 Raymond Ho and a written reply by the Secretary for Housing, Planning and Lands, Mr Michael Suen, in the Legislative Council today (January 18):

Question:

Regarding advertisement signboards projecting from external walls of buildings and overhanging streets ("overhanging advertisement signboards"), will the Government inform this Council:

(a) of the regulatory measures regarding large-sized overhanging advertisement signboards;

(b) how it deals with the overhanging advertisement signboards which belong to closed-down businesses but have not yet been removed; and

(c) of the legal liabilities under the existing legislation concerning overhanging advertisement signboards which fall from height?

Reply:

Madam President,

My reply to the three-part question is as follows:

(1) The Government attaches great importance to the safety of signboards, particularly large projecting signboards. Under the Buildings Ordinance (BO) (Cap 123), the erection of advertisement signboards is building works and requires the approval and consent for the commencement of works of the Building Authority (BA) before the works are carried out. On the control of advertisement signboards including large projecting signboards, the Buildings Department (BD) adopts the following regulatory measures and enforcement actions:

(a) For plans on new advertisement signboards submitted to BD for approval, the department has issued a Practice Note for Authorized Persons and Registered Structural Engineers which sets out the requirements on the clearance between projecting signboards and their positioning, as well as the standards on material and structural safety of signboard structures. These requirements include, inter alia, the following:

(i) The area of a projecting signboard inclusive of its supporting frame should not exceed 40 square metres;

(ii) A signboard should not affect the fire escapes or staircases of a building;

(iii) A signboard should not obstruct or reduce the required natural lighting and ventilation provided to a building;

(iv) A projecting signboard should not project more than 4.2 metres from the main building line or within 1.5 metres from the centre line of a street;

(v) A signboard projecting over a pavement should have a minimum vertical clearance of not less than 3.5 metres from the ground level;

(vi) A signboard projecting over a carriageway should have a minimum vertical clearance of not less than 5.8 metres from the ground level;

(vii) Two adjacent projecting signboards including their supporting frames should have a minimum lateral distance of 2.4 metres in between; and

(viii) Two signboards erected from the opposite sides of a street should have a horizontal minimum clear distance of 3 metres.

To facilitate persons intending to erect signboards in compliance with the safety requirements through legal and more convenient and simple procedures, BD has since June 2003 implemented a fast-track plan processing service for processing building plans submitted for the erection of signboards whereby the approval procedures should be completed within 30 days.

(b) Since March 2002, BD has appointed consultancy firms to carry out inspections within 48 hours of receiving any complaints relating to unauthorized building works (including signboards) under construction. The consultants also carry out patrolling inspections in various districts and take photographs for record. If any large unauthorized signboards are found to be under construction or newly erected during inspection, BD will issue removal orders under the Buildings Ordinance so as to curb the proliferation of new unauthorized signboards. In 2005, BD removed 29 newly erected unauthorized signboards.

(c) Since August 2003, BD has carried out inspections in busy areas to implement planned clearance operations against large existing unauthorized signboards. In 2005, BD removed 6 large existing unauthorized signboards with area exceeding 40 square metres under such clearance operations.

(2) BD staff also carries out surveillance inspections of existing signboards. When dangerous or abandoned signboards are found, BD will issue Dangerous Structure Removal Notices against the owners of the signboards under the Public Health and Municipal Services Ordinance (Cap 132), to eliminate any potential danger that these signboards may pose to the public. The District Councillors have also been requested to refer such cases to BD for follow up action. In 2005, BD removed 1,597 signboards which pose danger or are abandoned, of which 1,383 are abandoned signboards. If the owners of these signboards fail to comply with the requirements of the Notice within the specified period, BD will arrange to carry out the removal works and recover the costs from the owners of the signboards.

(3) It is the duty of the signboard owners to ensure timely maintenance so as to maintain the safety of their signboards. It is also the responsibility of the property owners to ensure that no unauthorized signboards are erected in their properties. Should any signboard fall to the ground due to a lack of repair, the owner of the signboard as well as the owner of the property where the signboard was erected may be legally liable. For example, in respect of criminal liability, pursuant to section 4B(1) of the Summary Offences Ordinance (Cap 228), if anything is dropped or allowed to fall from any building causing danger or injury of any person in or near a public place, the person who drops that thing or allows it to fall may be prosecuted and if convicted, the person shall be liable to a maximum fine of $10,000 and imprisonment for 6 months. Moreover, if any part of a signboard drops from height during the course of erection, BD may prosecute the person concerned with such works pursuant to Section 40(2B)(a) of the Buildings Ordinance. Section 40(2B)(a) of the Ordinance provides that any person who is directly concerned with any type of building works and carries out such works in such manner that it causes injury to any person or damage to any property, if convicted, shall be liable to a maximum fine of $1,000,000 and imprisonment for 3 years. In addition, any person who suffers loss and injury as a result of fallen objects from a building may institute civil proceedings to claim compensation. In respect of such civil liability, it is for the Court to determine who should be held liable after taking into consideration all relevant factors.

Ends/Wednesday, January 18, 2006
Issued at HKT 14:32

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