DEVB's statement on unauthorised building works in New Territories village houses

Regarding the newspaper report today (June 15) that some owners of small houses had rushed to erect illegal rooftop structures, a spokesman for the Development Bureau emphasised that the government would take immediate enforcement action against all unauthorised building works (UBWs) in progress and newly completed UBWs under the prevailing enforcement policy.

In a written reply to a question raised by the Hon Wong Yuk-man in the Legislative Council today, the Secretary for Development, Mrs Carrie Lam, pointed out that the Buildings Department had issued 220, 155 and 217 removal orders for UBWs in New Territories exempted houses (including small houses) in each of the three years from 2008 to 2010 respectively. The number of prosecutions made in relation to non-compliance of such orders were 66, 132 and 129 respectively. These removal orders mainly involved UBWs in progress and newly completed UBWs.

In order to stop the proliferation of new UBWs, the Buildings Department will continue to take vigorous enforcement action, targeting the removal of new UBWs in progress and the newly completed ones if there is adequate evidence. In view of the recommendations made by the Ombudsman's direct investigation report in April this year, the Buildings Department has redefined the definition of "work-in-progress" to cover the original reference of the construction work of the main frame of the UBWs under construction to other non-structural works (such as fitting-out works or site clearance) after the completion of the main frame of the UBW. The new definition includes newly completed UBWs that might have escaped enforcement action under the past definition. The guidelines on "work-in-progress" were issued by the end of April to the front-line staff and the outsourced consultants responsible for dealing with UBWs in New Territories exempted houses.

In its investigation of UBWs, the Buildings Department will collect site evidence such as records of the UBWs' condition; evidence provided by workers, occupants, neighbours and management offices; past inspection and enforcement records; and aerial photos supplied by the Lands Department.

Aerial photos are a very effective tool for monitoring rooftop UBWs. The Survey and Mapping Office of the Lands Department takes aerial photos annually to keep track of landscape changes and at present holds more than 252 000 aerial photos covering the whole territory. These aerial photos can allow measurement of the size and the height of buildings with an accuracy of about 0.4 metre. The Financial Committee of the Legislative Council in May 2011 approved funding of $41 million to purchase a new digital aerial camera system to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of aerial photography operations. At present, the Buildings Department can quickly and easily obtain these aerial photos via the Government's intranet system to verify whether the UBWs in New Territories village houses are under construction or newly completed.

"The Development Bureau has made preliminary proposals to the Heung Yee Kuk on the control of UBWs in New Territories village houses, and will consult the Panel on Development of the Legislative Council on June 28. These suggested measures are all targeted toward tackling the existing UBWs. Our prevailing enforcement policy is to combat and remove UBWs in progress and newly completed UBWs. If building owners want to construct UBWs swiftly during this period in order to evade their legal responsibility, they are defying the law," the spokesman said.

Ends/Wednesday, June 15, 2011
Issued at HKT 21:12