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LCQ1: Cargo compartments ("Skips")

Following is a question by the Hon Sophie Leung and a reply by the Secretary for Development, Mrs Carrie Lam, in the Legislative Council today (October 17):

Question:

I have learnt that some contractors of building works casually placed cargo compartments for storing construction wastes at roadsides or even in the prohibited zones of busy districts, causing both traffic and environmental nuisances. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(a) whether it will require the contractors concerned, when placing cargo compartments at roadsides, to install flashlights, lighting systems or other appropriate devices, so that at night or under poor lighting conditions, motorists can be aware of such compartments being placed at roadsides in order to ensure road safety;

(b) whether it will take the initiative to inspect the locations where such compartments are placed to ensure that there is sufficient room for motorists and to prevent such compartments from affecting the traffic; and

(c) given that various government departments, including the Lands Department, Food and Environmental Hygiene Department, Environmental Protection Department, Highways Department and Transport Department, are currently involved in handling the above problem of such compartments, whether the Government will draw up guidelines to specify clearly the responsibilities of such departments and the arrangements of their division of work; if it will, of the details?

Reply:

Madam President,

Cargo compartments (commonly known as "skips" in the trades) placed at roadsides are generally used for temporary storage of construction wastes generated from fitting-out or modification works being carried out in the nearby buildings. The wastes so collected are subsequently transported to landfills for disposal. The fitting-out and construction trades therefore have a practical need for cargo compartments. To the public, the use of cargo compartments prevents casual dumping of construction wastes, thereby alleviating environmental hygiene and traffic problems. As cargo compartments are normally left on streets or at roadsides for no more than two to three days, the inconvenience caused to traffic and pedestrians is temporary. When cargo compartments affect traffic safety, the Government will take immediate actions to deal with the problem. As can be seen, it is appropriate for us to adopt a pragmatic and balanced approach to address the issue of cargo compartments placed on streets.

Regarding the three parts of the main question, please allow me to answer part (c) first.

(a) As pointed out by the Hon Sophie Leung, various departments are currently involved in handling the problem of cargo compartments. Each of them has respective laws to follow and considerations to take into account in enforcement. The placing of cargo compartments on streets is an issue of district management that requires stronger and more effective co-ordination among departments. In his Policy Address delivered in 2005, the Chief Executive pledged that the HKSAR Government would enhance work in districts through strengthening the role of District Officers and the co-ordination function of District Management Committees. The purpose is to better provide cross-departmental services in districts with a view to raising the capacity to resolve problems at the district level.

To strengthen the co-ordination of various departments at the district level, the Home Affairs Bureau established a Steering Committee on District Administration (the Steering Committee) to draw together the strengths of the senior management of the departments, so that they could exchange views on matters of common concerns and resolve issues of district management through joint departmental efforts. Early this year, the Steering Committee commenced meetings at which the issue of cargo compartments was raised and followed up. I believe that this mechanism of enhancing co-ordination among departments will serve the intended purpose.

(b) Regarding part (a) of the question, I would like to inform this Council that the Steering Committee has, after discussion, decided that the Transport Department (TD) should draw up a set of guidelines on the use of skips for compliance by the related trades in order to minimise the nuisances caused to the public by cargo compartments placed at roadsides and ensure the safety of road users. TD is consulting the related trades on the guidelines, and will issue them to the trades shortly. The guidelines formulate safety measures for the use of skips and put forward various suggestions about their fittings and locations, including the installation of yellow flash lights at each top corner of a cargo compartment or placing traffic cones with yellow flash lights around such compartments at night time for safety purpose. The guidelines should have addressed the concern of the Hon Sophie LEUNG. When such guidelines are put in place, the problems caused by skips to road users will be ameliorated.

(c) On the second part of the question, the Lands Department (LandsD) is responsible for administering government land and preventing illegal occupation of land. As the department needs to use resources effectively, there is no inspection specifically targeted at cargo compartments at present. LandsD carries out inspections at black spots where illegal occupation of government land is frequent. Frontline police officers on routine beat patrols pay attention to whether cargo compartments cause serious obstruction or immediate danger to members of the public or vehicles. When such is found, the Police will take appropriate actions, including removing the cargo compartments immediately, under the common law or the Summary Offences Ordinance. LandsD will also take actions to address individual complaints. If a cargo compartment in question causes no obstruction, inconvenience or danger to the public or vehicles, LandsD will put up a notice under the Land (Miscellaneous Provisions) Ordinance, requiring the owner to remove the cargo compartment within one working day. If the cargo compartment remains there following expiry of the deadline, LandsD will arrange for its removal by a contractor.

Ends/Wednesday, October 17, 2007
Issued at HKT 13:15

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