LCQ13: Control of unauthorised signboards

Following is a question by Dr Hon Chiang Lai-wan and a written reply by the Secretary for Development, Mr Paul Chan, in the Legislative Council today (November 13):


At present, huge signboards of shop operators are overhanging from the external walls of quite a number of private buildings in Kowloon West.  Quite a number of owners' corporations (OCs) have sought my assistance, saying that at present it is difficult for OCs to stop some shop operators from forcibly overhanging signboards from the external walls of their buildings without OCs' prior consent, and these OCs have no channels to lodge their complaints.  They are worried that if these signboards fall and cause casualties, owners of the buildings concerned may have to bear criminal and civil liabilities.  On the other hand, the Buildings Department (BD) launched a Validation Scheme for unauthorised signboards (Validation Scheme) in early September this year to step up the monitoring of the safety of signboards.  In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(a) whether it knows the current number of signboards overhanging from the external walls of buildings throughout the territory and, among them, the respective numbers of those with danger of falling and erected illegally, with a breakdown by District Council (DC) district; if such numbers are unavailable, why the authorities have yet to compile such statistics even though this Council had twice enquired about such numbers in 2008 and 2010;

(b) of the number of complaints received in each of the past five years by the authorities from OCs regarding signboards abandoned by shop operators after cessation of business, with a breakdown by DC district; if such numbers are unavailable, the reasons for that;

(c) of a breakdown by DC district of the following figures on actions taken by the authorities in each of the past five years:
(i) the number of signboards inspected;
(ii) the number of dangerous or abandoned signboards in respect of which "Dangerous Structure Removal Notices" (Notices) were issued;
(iii) the number of summons issued to the individuals concerned who had failed to comply with the Notices; and
(iv) the respective numbers of dangerous, abandoned and unauthorised signboards removed;

(d) of the current number of signboard owners who have participated in the Validation Scheme of BD; if such information is unavailable, the reasons for that; and

(e) whether BD has assigned dedicated officers to implement the Validation Scheme; if it has, of the respective duties of the various grades of officers concerned; if not, the reasons for that?



The Buildings Department (BD) has been taking appropriate enforcement action against unauthorised signboards and dangerous or abandoned signboards. In handling unauthorised signboards, the BD, in accordance with the Buildings Ordinance (Cap. 123) (BO), issues removal orders against persons responsible for the removal of those unauthorised signboards.  If the signboards are abandoned or have become dangerous, irrespective of whether the signboards have contravened the BO, the BD can issue Dangerous Structure Removal Notices (DSRNs) to the signboard owners concerned according to the Public Health and Municipal Services Ordinance (Cap. 132), requiring the removal of the abandoned or dangerous signboards concerned.  In case of emergency, the BD will take the initiative to arrange immediate removal of dangerous signboards having regard to the circumstances, in order to remove the imminent or potential danger posed to the public.

As there is large number of unauthorised signboards in Hong Kong, and most of them pose no potential danger, the BD wishes to adopt a pragmatic approach to further enhance the safety of unauthorised signboards of smaller size through the Validation Scheme for Unauthorised Signboards (Validation Scheme).  Since no application for the erection of these signboards has been made to the Building Authority (BA) before, these signboards will still be unauthorised building works even after validation.  However, as the validated signboards have been certified to be safe and have satisfied other design and construction standards through inspection, the BA will not take enforcement action against these signboards.  If the validated signboards subsequently become dangerous or abandoned, or have not undergone another validation more than five years after the previous validation, the BD will still take enforcement action against them.

To assist the industry to familiarise with the operation of the relevant scheme, the BD will strengthen the related publicity and public education programmes to enhance public knowledge of this new scheme, including organising technical seminars and briefings for building professionals, contractors and the building management industry, etc; and continuing to distribute pamphlets to introduce the Validation Scheme to the owners' corporations (OCs), mutual aid committees and management companies, etc. of the buildings.  In addition, the BD will progressively step up its enforcement action by issuing removal orders against signboard owners who have not joined the Validation Scheme for their unauthorised signboards or whose unauthorised signboards are not eligible for joining the Validation Scheme.  Once a removal order is issued, regardless of whether the unauthorised signboards are originally eligible for undergoing validation, those signboard owners cannot subsequently join the Validation Scheme for their unauthorised signboards, and that the BD will continue to take enforcement action.

My reply to the five parts of the question is as follows:

(a) According to the preliminary results obtained from a stock-taking exercise recently conducted by the BD on the numbers and types of unauthorised building works and unauthorised signboards at the exterior of private buildings, there are a total of about 120 000 signboards in Hong Kong.  Most of these signboards are unauthorised.  The BD and the appointed consultant firms will conduct periodic inspection in different districts.  Upon identifying signboards that may possibly pose danger, the BD and the consultant firms will arrange removal actions to eliminate the possible danger posed to the public by those signboards.  When it is confirmed that any signboard poses imminent danger during regular inspection, the BD will arrange removal actions immediately.

The distribution of existing signboards in District Council districts is shown in Table 1.

(b) Since the BD does not keep separate records on the number of reports on abandoned signboards made by OCs, the required figures are not available.  The total numbers of reports on abandoned or dangerous signboards received by the BD in the past five years (from 2008 to 2012) broken down by District Council districts are shown in Table 2.

(c) The statistics of works on signboard control by the BD in the past five years (from 2008 to 2012), broken down by year are tabulated below:

(i) Number of Signboards Inspected:

The BD does not keep statistics on the total number of signboards inspected and the breakdown by districts.  According to the BD's information, the approximate number of inspection on signboards conducted by the department in each of the past five years is tabulated below.  The BD will keep relevant statistics in the future.

  Number of inspection
  on signboard
Year  (approximate figures)
----  ---------------------
200840 000
200938 000
201033 000
201125 000
201229 000
Total:  165 000

(ii) Numbers of DSRNs issued against dangerous or abandoned signboards are shown in Table 3.

(iii) Numbers of summons issued against individuals concerned who had failed to comply with the DSRNs:

If the individuals concerned have failed to comply with the DSRNs, the BD will first give warning to the individuals concerned before considering to instigate prosecution.  Under most circumstances, the individuals concerned will remove the signboards in compliance with the DSRNs.  If the BD cannot ascertain the identities of the signboard owners (for example in the case of some abandoned signboards), the BD would not be able to instigate prosecutions.  Due to the above reasons, the BD does not keep the number of cases where prosecutions were instigated against non-compliance with the DSRNs.

(iv) The numbers of abandoned or dangerous signboards removed or repaired are shown in Table 4.

For the numbers of signboards removed owing to contravention against the BO (other than those abandoned or dangerous signboards), the BD did not keep the relevant statistics before 2012.  In 2013, the BD plans to issue 250 removal orders against large unauthorised signboards.  It is expected that 125 large unauthorised signboards will be removed.

(d) Since the implementation of the Validation Scheme on September 2 this year to end-October, the BD had received about 70 enquiries and five submissions of certification for safety inspection under the Validation Scheme.

(e) The BD reorganised its manpower for the control of unauthorised signboards in end-2011 and established the Signboard Control Unit which comprised 19 professional and technical staff.  They are responsible for carrying out the large scale operation for removal of large unauthorised signboards, carrying out preparatory works for the implementation of the Validation Scheme, and processing the relevant validation submissions received after the implementation of that scheme.  In addition, the existing resources of 530 professional and technical staff in the two Existing Buildings Divisions and the Mandatory Building Inspection Division of the BD are also responsible for taking enforcement action against dangerous or abandoned signboards and unauthorised signboards as part of their overall duties to implement the BD's building safety and maintenance enforcement programme.  Outsourced consultant firms have also been engaged by the BD for conducting regular patrol inspection and supervising the removal works of dangerous or abandoned and unauthorised signboards.

Ends/Wednesday, November 13, 2013
Issued at HKT 17:28