Following is a question by the Hon Kwok Ka-ki and a written reply by the Secretary for Development, Mr Paul Chan, in the Legislative Council today (May 8):
It was reported that on October 12, 2012, fire appliances and ambulances could not get to a fire scene in Wing Hing Wai, Yuen Long because the walls of some village houses in that village had encroached onto the road. It has also been reported that this has become a common, systemic and growing problem in the village environs due to the prevailing small house policy. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:
(a) how many New Territories Exempted Houses (i.e. small houses) (NTEHs) are at present not provided with any emergency vehicular access (EVA);
(b) how many NTEHs are expected to have no EVA once all lands zoned for "Village Type Developments" are utilised under the prevailing small house policy;
(c) whether and how the authorities enforce the implementation of fire safety alternatives in NTEHs without EVA after the issue of certificates of compliance in respect of such NTEHs; if enforcement actions are not taken, of the reasons for that; whether the authorities have assessed if the existing fire safety alternatives are adequate for such NTEHs; if such an assessment has been conducted, of the outcome;
(d) whether and how the authorities enforce the implementation of fire safety alternatives in NTEHs which are not provided with any vehicular access; if enforcement actions are not taken, of the reasons for that; whether the authorities have assessed if the existing fire safety alternatives are adequate for such NTEHs; if such an assessment has been conducted, of the outcome;
(e) whether the authorities have reviewed if NTEHs without EVA need to have additional means of escape for occupants of upper floors; if such a review has been conducted, of the outcome;
(f) whether the Secretary for Development (SDEV) will instruct the Director of Lands to ensure that EVAs will be provided before approving applications for building new NTEHs; if he will not; of the reasons for that; and
(g) how SDEV will ensure that fire safety in the village environs will be improved and will not deteriorate?
New Territories Exempted Houses (NTEHs) are houses covered by the Buildings Ordinance (Application to the New Territories) Ordinance (Cap. 121), but to which the Buildings Ordinance (Cap. 123) does not apply. Under the Buildings Ordinance (Application to the New Territories) Ordinance, these houses generally cannot exceed 65.03 square metres (700 square feet) in roof-over area, three storeys and 8.23 metres (27 feet) in height. NTEHs include but are not confined to small houses built in accordance with the New Territories Small House Policy.
The arrangements for the provision of Emergency Vehicular Accesses (EVAs) for NTEHs were introduced in 1997, refined in 2001 and modified in 2006 in consultation with Government departments including Lands Department (LandsD), Planning Department (PlanD), Home Affairs Department (HAD) and Fire Services Department (FSD) as well as Heung Yee Kuk (HYK). The relevant arrangements currently in force are as follows:
(a) If an NTEH application site is located less than 30 metres away from an existing EVA, or if a cluster of fewer than 10 houses (including the application site) is located within a radius of 30 metres from the application site, provision of an EVA is not required;
(b) If a cluster of 10 or more houses (including the application site) are located within a radius of 30 metres from an NTEH application site, the applicant should consider ways to provide an EVA to the application site;
(c) Where an EVA cannot be provided because of geographical constraints or problems with private land ownership, the applicant must implement one of the following fire safety alternatives:
(i) Automatic sprinkler installation; or
(ii) Fire detection system and hose reel system (applicable if there is no fire separation between floors of the three-storey NTEH); or
(iii) Fire detection system and fire extinguisher on each floor of the NTEH (applicable if there is fire separation between floors of the three-storey NTEH).
If the applicant opts for fire safety alternatives (ii) or (iii) above, he or his representative is required to attend a fire safety training course arranged by FSD.
My reply to the various parts of the question is as follows:
(a) The EVA requirement was not imposed to construction of NTEHs before 1997. LandsD does not have information with regard to NTEHs approved before 1997 and without provision of EVAs.
LandsD does not keep case statistics of NTEHs involving EVAs prior to 2006. As the relevant information involves going through a large amount of dossiers, we are unable to provide such information.
Amongst the NTEH applications processed by LandsD since the implementation of the modified EVA arrangements in July 2006 and until March 31 this year, the provision of EVAs in 5 624 applications have been confirmed not necessary after examination, the main reasons being the application sites are located less than 30 metres away from an existing EVA, or a cluster of fewer than 10 houses (including the application sites) is located within a radius of 30 metres from the application sites. There are also 1 419 applications in which a cluster of 10 or more houses (including the application sites) is located within 30 metres from the application sites, the applicants of which have to consider ways to provide EVAs. If no EVA can be provided due to the above-mentioned constraints, the applicants must implement one of the fire safety alternatives as mentioned above. There are other applications which do not require examination of the need to provide EVAs, as it is apparent that the application sites satisfy part (a) of the above-mentioned criteria (e.g. adjoining public access roads). LandsD does not keep statistics of these cases.
(b) The land zoned "Village Type Development" which permits construction of NTEHs includes both private and Government land, some of which are of irregular shape and may not be suitable for development, e.g. empty space between houses, back lanes and narrow strips of land alongside existing developments, access or other amenities. In addition, many NTEHs are built on land under private ownership, the size of which is not standardised. The Government is unable to assess the number of NTEHs that can be accommodated on such land, nor can we predict how many NTEH cases that might be submitted in future will be subject to EVA requirement.
(c) and (d) As mentioned above, NTEH applicants are required to implement fire safety alternatives as set out in the "New Territories Exempted Houses – A Guide to Fire Safety Requirements" (the Guide) if EVAs cannot be provided. The registered Fire Safety Installation (FSI) contractors or consultants commissioned by the applicants shall submit to FSD the relevant plans setting out the FSIs/equipment in accordance with the Guide for the department's consideration and confirmation. The concerned FSIs/equipment shall be installed by a registered FSI contractor.
Upon completion of the construction of the NTEH (including the concerned fire safety alternatives) and submission of application for the Certificate of Compliance (C of C) by the NTEH applicant, the relevant New Territories District Lands Office (DLO) will liaise with FSD and conduct site inspection to ensure the FSIs/equipment in question has been installed as per the above-mentioned arrangements. The applicant is required to submit to FSD a copy of the Certificate of FSIs and Equipment issued by a registered FSI contractor. FSD will arrange for inspection to determine whether the FSIs/equipment are installed in accordance with the design as set out in the aforementioned plans and comply with the relevant requirements, and inform the relevant DLO of the results of such inspection for its consideration for issue of C of C.
After issue of C of C, the owner of the relevant FSIs/equipment shall make sure that their FSIs/equipment can function properly, and have them inspected by a registered FSI contractor at least once a year and have the Certificate of FSIs and Equipment issued within 14 days after completion of such inspection according to the Fire Service (Installations and Equipment) Regulations (Cap. 95B). Moreover, it may be considered as a fire hazard if FSIs/equipment cannot function effectively. FSD may serve a Fire Hazard Abatement Notice in accordance with Section 3 of the Fire Services (Fire Hazard Abatement) Regulation (Cap. 95F) to require the owner of the relevant FSIs/equipment to rectify the problem.
From the land lease perspective, a condition requiring the licensee/grantee to provide fire safety alternatives will be imposed to the relevant land lease if necessary. The licensee/grantee shall observe and comply with such requirement at all times during the term of the lease. If the licensee/grantee fails to comply with or observe such requirements, New Territories DLOs will, after seeking legal advice, take appropriate lease enforcement action.
If an EVA is provided by the relevant NTEH in accordance with requirements, FSD will, upon notification by New Territories DLOs, arrange trial run at the relevant EVA to ensure operation efficiency during an event.
(e), (f) and (g) As mentioned above, the present EVA arrangements are formulated in consultation with Government departments including LandsD, PlanD, HAD and FSD as well as HYK to facilitate development of NTEHs (including small houses) in areas where such developments are permitted without compromising safety requirements. The applicants and subsequent owners of NTEHs are required to ensure that the relevant FSIs/equipment comply with the relevant requirements and can function properly. As afore-mentioned, if there is a condition in the lease requiring the licensee/grantee to provide fire safety alternatives, the licensee/grantee shall observe and comply with such requirement at all times during the term of the lease.
LandsD and FSD will continue to process NTEH applications in accordance with the Guide. Staff of FSD will conduct inspections in various areas from time to time and formulate fire fighting and rescue strategies according to distribution of buildings and the physical situation of access to ensure effective execution of fire fighting and rescue operations. The relevant Government departments will continue to work together to review the arrangements from time to time to ensure the effective implementation of the present fire safety requirements.
Ends/Wednesday, May 8, 2013
Issued at HKT 15:44