Following is a question by the Hon Cheung Hok-ming and a written reply by the Secretary for Development, Mrs Carrie Lam, in the Legislative Council today (July 14):
It has been reported that in recent months, there have been incidents of abandoned signboards in urban areas falling and injuring passers-by. Regarding the removal of dangerous and abandoned signboards, will the Government inform this Council:
(a) whether it knows the total number of signboards in Hong Kong at present; among them, of the number of abandoned signboards which have been illegally erected and whose owners cannot be identified;
(b) of the number of incidents involving signboards which occurred in the past two years, as well as the resultant casualties;
(c) given that the authorities had allocated $18 million for launching an operation to remove 5,000 dangerous signboards in Hong Kong, when the operation had been completed, and of the details of the continuous efforts made by the authorities to remove dangerous signboards since the completion of the operation; and
(d) of the estimated time required to complete the clearance of all illegally erected signboards in Hong Kong, as well as the expenditure involved?
The Buildings Department (BD) attaches great importance to the safety of buildings in Hong Kong, including safety of signboards. Staff of the BD have been carrying out inspections in each district of Hong Kong. Upon discovery of dangerous or abandoned signboards, follow-up actions will be taken. Regarding signboards having imminent danger, the BD will remove them immediately in order to protect the safety of the public.
The reply to the four-part question is as follows:
(a) The BD has not compiled statistics of signboards in Hong Kong but roughly estimates that there are currently about 190,000 signboards. The Department has no statistics on unauthorised signboards and abandoned signboards of which the owners cannot be identified.
(b) During the period from July 1, 2008 to June 30, 2010, the BD received a total of 168 emergency reports regarding signboards, among which one person was injured in an incident.
(c) The BD has been taking enforcement action against abandoned or dangerous signboards to eliminate the potential danger these signboards might pose to the public. The Department sets a target every year for removal of abandoned or dangerous signboards. The original removal target set for 2009 was 1,600 signboards. However, the Department launched a 12-month special operation in March of that year with an aim to removing, on top of the original target, 5,000 additional abandoned or dangerous signboards in the territory. The special operation was completed in March 2010, with about 5,770 abandoned or dangerous signboards in total removed. In 2010, the BD will continue to remove abandoned and dangerous signboards and adjust upward the removal target of the regular operation to 2,400 signboards.
(d) The BD has been adopting a multi-pronged approach to ensure the safety of signboards. Regarding new signboards, under the minor works control system to be implemented within this year, construction and removal works of small-scale signboards are specified as minor work items. The new system enables those who intend to erect small-scale signboards to adopt a simple, expeditious and lawful procedure (which does not require, inter alia, prior approval of plans and consent to commencement of works by the Building Authority), and appoint prescribed registered contractors (if the works belong to Class I minor works, prescribed building professionals should be separately engaged to undertake the design and supervision of the works) to erect lawful signboards. This convenient system would significantly reduce the emergence of new unauthorised signboards. In addition, signboard is one of the inspection items under the proposed mandatory building inspection scheme. The relevant inspectors also have to report to the BD unauthorised signboards identified during inspections of buildings to facilitate the BD's consideration of enforcement actions. The above measures all help enhance the safety of signboards.
The Administration is comprehensively reviewing the building safety policy for Hong Kong. Removal of unauthorised building works (including unauthorised and abandoned signboards) is an item under examination. We plan to complete the review within this year and will brief the Legislative Council on the relevant arrangements.
Ends/Wednesday, July 14, 2010
Issued at HKT 15:03