Following is a speech by the Secretary for Planning and Lands, Mr Gordon Siu, in moving the second reading of the Buildings (Amendment) Bill 2000 in the Legislative Council meeting today (Wednesday):
In my response to the Motion Debate on the Buildings Ordinance on January 26, 2000, I have promised to review and amend the contents of the Buildings Ordinance regularly. The Buildings (Amendment) Bill 2000 is one phase of the review of the Buildings Ordinance. The purpose of the Bill is to update and improve part of the statutory requirements relating to building control; the five key proposals in this Bill have the general support of the industry.
As Hong Kong is running out of land fill space for the disposal of its waste, waste reduction measures are vital for environmental improvement and sustainability. The current recovery rate for reusable and recyclable materials is however low; one reason for this low response is that there is insufficient space within the current provision for refuse storage chambers for separation and storage of sufficient reusable and recyclable materials to allow meaningful recovery to take place. Under the Bill, Government proposes to make provision for regulations to cover material storage and recovery chambers and to amend the Building (Refuse Storage Chambers and Chutes) Regulations to make it mandatory for the provision of floor space and facilities for separation of waste and material recovery in all new residential, commercial and industrial buildings and hotels. As an incentive, the Government proposes that the space necessary to meet these requirements will be exempted from Gross Floor Area (GFA) calculations through an amendment to the Building (Planning) Regulations.
To help realise the Government's information technology objectives, the Bill contains a set of proposals to amend the Building (Planning) Regulations to ensure that people, whether at home or at work, can easily access to and have a choice of quality telecommunication and broadcasting networks. Access facilities for these telecommunication and broadcasting services will be improved in new commercial, industrial, residential and hotel buildings. The floor space for the required Telecommunication and Broadcasting Equipment Rooms and ducts and risers for the cables will all be excluded from the GFA of the developments.
For most planning purposes, hotels are classified as premises for domestic use. The Building Authority, though, has since the late Sixties exercised discretionary power under the Buildings Ordinance in processing bona fide hotel developments to increase the plot ratio limits in the Building (Planning) Regulations to non-domestic standards (i.e. from 10 to 15) and to grant building concessions for certain essential back-of-the-house facilities.
The Government has recently conducted a review on the policy and procedures for granting these hotel concessions. The outcome of this review is that we need to maintain these concessions to meet the needs of hotels and to encourage a steady supply of hotel rooms to satisfy the demand of tourism industry. The Bill amends the Building (Planning) Regulations to formalize the existing concessions for bona fide hotel developments. There is also provision for a daily fine at level 2 ($5,000) for continuing offences. Such an increase of penalties is considered necessary as the current levels were set in 1979. The Government proposes to increase the penalties for unauthorized change of use of hotels which have been granted such concessions to a fine at level 6 ($100,000) and two years' imprisonment.
The fourth set of proposals concern performance review of geotechnical design. At present, there is provision under the Buildings Ordinance for the Building Authority to exercise control on developments in the Mid-Levels Scheduled Area and other scheduled areas, such as the protection areas along the Mass Transit Railway. However, geotechnical problems can arise outside these scheduled areas. To take account of this and provide appropriate levels of control, the Bill sets out amendments to sections 17(1) and 21(6) of the Ordinance to extend geotechnical controls to sites throughout Hong Kong where geological conditions would need to be verified during construction, or where the groundwater regime may be adversely affected by the proposed development. These controls will also be extended to buildings with unconventional designs.
The fifth proposal in the Bill is to revise the present fee structure for registration of Authorized Persons and Registered Structural Engineers. The Government proposes, through an amendment to section 3 of the Ordinance, separate fees for application and for inclusion in these registers, and to reduce the fees to be paid by applicants for inclusion of their names in a register in accordance with a costing review from $6,110 to $4,500; fees for the annual retention in a register will also be reduced from $840 to $815. These new fees will be set out in the Building (Administration) Regulations.
Madam President, with these remarks, I look forward to Members' support for the early enactment of this legislation and move the second reading of this Bill.
End/Wednesday, February 16, 2000