Following is a question by the Hon Tanya Chan and a written reply by the Secretary for the Environment, Mr Edward Yau, at the Legislative Council meeting today (November 16):
An international school on Lantau Island received noise abatement notices ("NANs") issued by the Noise Control Authority ("NCA") (i.e. Director of Environmental Protection) as noise emanated from the school was said to have reached 62 decibels ("dB"), which exceeded the statutory level of 60 dB for rural area. The school considered the issuance of NANs by the authorities unreasonable, and appealed to the Noise Control Appeal Board and then applied to the High Court for a judicial review, but both cases were dismissed. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:
(a) when NCA issues NANs, apart from considering the measurement of the noise levels taken during his investigation of complaints about noises, whether he will also take into consideration other factors (including the use of the premises emanating the noises, sources of the noises, how long the noises persist as well as at what time the noises are emanated, etc.); if he will, how he decides whether to issue NANs according to such factors; if he will not consider such factors, of the reasons for that;
(b) given that during school recesses, students will all gather in the outdoor areas of their schools to relax and play and will cause some noises, whether the Government will, in view of the special nature of school environment, consider reviewing the noise level limit applicable to schools, so as to strike a fine balance between minimising the noise nuisance caused to residents in the vicinity and maintaining a pleasant learning environment in school; if it will, of the details; if not, the reasons for that; and
(c) with a view to preventing noises that may be emanated from schools from affecting residents in the vicinity, whether the Government will consider making adjustments in selecting sites for schools during planning, or assisting schools in installing noise control facilities to reduce noises; if it will, of the details; if not, the reasons for that?
Environmental noise is controlled under "Noise Control Ordinance" (Cap. 400) and the "Technical Memorandum for the Assessment of Noise from Places other than Domestic Premises, Public Places or Construction Site" (hereinafter called "Technical Memorandum") issued pursuant to the Ordinance. The "Technical Memorandum" sets out the noise control standards, measurement procedures and other technical details. The enforcement personnel must follow the provisions of the "Technical Memorandum" to assess whether noise emanated from the relevant premises exceeds the "Acceptable Noise Level", and whether a "Noise Abatement Notice" should be issued. Our replies to the three specific questions are given below:
(a) In the course of enforcement, the enforcement staff of Environmental Protection Department (hereinafter called EPD) will consider the relevant factors in accordance to the aforementioned "Technical Memorandum". Firstly, the enforcement staff will determine whether the use of the premises where noise is emanated falls within the scope of the "Technical Memorandum". If it does, the enforcement staff should then consider the type of the affected area, whether it is affected by factors such as industrial areas and major roads, and the time when noise is emanated. With reference to these factors and following the "Technical Memorandum", an appropriate "Acceptable Noise Level" will be adopted.
(b) Upon receiving complaints against noise caused by students inside schools during recess or after school hours, EPD would first assist the schools to review their operation and their noise situation to facilitate the schools taking appropriate measures to abate the noise. For example, schools may consider installing noise barrier or cover in areas close to the affected residents, or relocating certain activities to other places inside the schools. These allow the schools maintaining normal students' activities during recess or after school hours, while preventing the noise caused by schools from affecting the nearby residents. According to past experience, the schools under complaint, upon realising the noise problem, in general responded positively and implemented effective mitigation measures to satisfactorily resolve the problem without affecting students' normal studies and activities in schools. EPD considers that the existing control regime in handling students' noise has been working effectively, and it is capable of achieving a reasonable balance between minimising the noise nuisance caused to residents in the vicinity and maintaining a pleasant learning environment in school.
(c) In deciding on the location of land uses for schools, Planning Department would consult relevant government departments, and would refer to the environmental guidelines as stated in Chapter 9 of the "Hong Kong Planning Standards and Guidelines". Schools should be sited away from noise sensitive areas. If the conditions do not allow or there are unavoidable circumstances resulting in situations that noise caused by schools may lead to disturbance to nearby residents, depending on the circumstances of individual cases, Education Bureau will suggest schools to install noise abatement facilities or implement appropriate administrative measures.
Ends/Wednesday, November 16, 2011
Issued at HKT 14:07