Following is a question by the Hon Leung Kwok-hung and a written reply by the Secretary for Development, Mr Paul Chan, in the Legislative Council today (November 28):
The Government has launched the Reporting Scheme for unauthorised building works (UBWs) in New Territories village houses (the Reporting Scheme), under which the Buildings Department (BD) will not require removal of registered eligible UBWs which have been subjected to safety inspection and certification. On the other hand, quite a number of members of the public have complained to me that after the media have uncovered the UBWs (including unauthorised garden trellises, basements, balconies, laundry racks and rooftop glasshouses, illegal structures made of tin plates, unauthorised enclosed balconies, and demolition of walls separating adjoining units without complying with the prescribed procedures) in some properties held by the Chief Executive (CE), some politically appointed officials and some Unofficial Members of the Executive Council (ExCo) in the Kowloon and Hong Kong regions, BD has not taken law enforcement actions and instituted prosecutions vigorously. Members of the public feel a great repulsion towards the situation. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:
(a) as the Reporting Scheme is not applicable to UBWs in the Kowloon and Hong Kong regions, why BD has not taken law enforcement actions vigorously against the aforesaid UBWs; and
(b) whether the authorities will give this Council and the public a full account on how the Government has handled each of the UBW cases involving CE, politically appointed officials and Unofficial ExCo Members, including whether they have taken law enforcement actions and instituted prosecutions; if they have, when such actions were taken and of the relevant details; if not, the reasons for that; and if no account will be given, the reasons for that?
(a) The issue of building safety is high on the Government's agenda. On the issue of unauthorised building works (UBWs), the Government has always put the safety of buildings in the first place, and takes a pragmatic stance to handle the issue through prioritisation and categorisation. To this end, we have formulated and implemented a clear enforcement policy against UBWs. The Buildings Department (BD) has also been following the principle of acting in accordance with the law and being impartial to all in taking appropriate actions on UBWs pursuant to the Buildings Ordinance (Cap. 123) (BO) and the prevailing enforcement policy.
Under the BO, all building works, with the exception of exempted works as defined under section 41 of the BO and designated minor works items that may be carried out under the simplified requirements of the Minor Works Control System, require the prior approval and consent of BD before such works may commence. Otherwise, regardless of the scale of such works, they will be regarded as UBWs and subject to enforcement action by BD.
To enhance building safety, BD has since April 1 of last year adopted a revised enforcement policy against UBWs by extending the coverage of actionable UBWs to include all UBWs (except minor amenity features) on the exterior of buildings, such as those on rooftops and podiums as well as those in yards and lanes of buildings, irrespective of their level of risk to public safety or whether they are newly erected. According to the revised enforcement policy, BD is in effect taking enforcement actions against most actionable UBWs found on the facade and exterior of a building. BD will actively respond to reports and, if there are confirmed actionable UBWs after inspection, issue advisory letters, advising the owners to rectify the irregularities of the properties as soon as possible. If the owner is not able to commence the rectification works within the specified period, BD will issue statutory orders requiring the owners to carry out the necessary works to rectify the situation, and register the orders in the Land Registry. For owners who do not duly observe the statutory orders, BD will consider instigating prosecution actions. Regarding the non-actionable UBWs, BD will, depending on the situation, serve advisory letters or warning notices requesting the owners to remove the UBWs voluntarily.
As for UBWs in New Territories exempted houses (commonly known as "NT village houses"), BD has put into effect an enhanced enforcement policy since April 1 of this year. On the fundamental premise of ensuring building and public safety as well as acting in accordance with the law, BD adopted a pragmatic approach in tackling existing UBWs in NT village houses through categorisation of UBWs and prioritisation of enforcement. Under the enhanced enforcement policy, while BD will continue to take immediate enforcement against UBWs constituting obvious hazard or imminent danger to life or property, and UBWs under construction or newly completed, it will also categorise UBWs constituting serious contravention of the law and posing higher potential risks to building safety as first round targets for progressive enforcement. In parallel, BD has launched the Reporting Scheme for UBWs in NT village houses for other existing UBWs that constitute less serious contravention of the law and pose lower potential risks. Subject to regular safety inspection and certification by a technically competent person, BD will not require removal of the eligible and registered UBWs during the period of enforcement against the first round targets unless such UBWs become imminently dangerous.
As mentioned above, BD has all along been taking appropriate actions on UBWs under the principle of acting in accordance with the law and being impartial to all. However, BD will, as a matter of established practice, accord priority to carry out site inspection for cases reported by members of the public or by the media involving senior government officials and celebrities with the objective of clearing any public concerns as soon as possible. After priority on-site inspection, BD will take appropriate enforcement actions in accordance with the BO and the prevailing enforcement policy as mentioned above in an impartial manner. Irrespective of the identity of the owner, BD will not make any special arrangements for enforcement actions.
(b) As mentioned above, irrespective of the identity of the owner, BD will not make any special arrangements for enforcement actions. Besides, the Department will mention the inspection results and follow-up actions when replying to enquiries by the media or complainants.
Ends/Wednesday, November 28, 2012
Issued at HKT 13:50