LCQ3: No 4 Peel Rise

     Following is a question by the Hon Lee Wing-tat and a reply by the Secretary for Development, Mr Mak Chai-kwong, in the Legislative Council today (July 4):


     It has been reported that in the two mansions owned by the Chief Executive in Yue Hei Yuen at Peel Rise of The Peak on Hong Kong Island, a glass frame with an area of about 110 square feet, a garden trellis and other additional structures had been built, which are all unauthorised building works (UBWs), and the property owner has already arranged to demolish some of those UBWs upon receipt of media enquiries. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(a) whether the authorities know when the aforesaid unauthorised garden trellis and glass frame were built; if they know, of the details; whether the demolition of such UBWs fell within the scope of works under the Minor Works Control System; if so, of the details of the regulation of such demolition works (including whether the authorities have received a notice to carry out the demolition works before or after demolition of such UBWs, and whether they have agreed to the demolition works);

(b) whether the authorities had inspected the aforesaid properties in the past with a view to finding out if there were UBWs in the properties concerned and if demolition works had been carried out to remove the structures; of the details and results of the inspections; whether they had ascertained if the property owner had commissioned professionals to check the presence or otherwise of UBWs in his properties and the outcome; and

(c) of the approved plot ratio and maximum permissible gross floor area (GFA) of the properties; the respective areas of the glass frame, garden trellis and other additional structures, and whether the areas of these structures should be included in the GFA of the properties; if so, during the period when these additional structures were erected within the properties, whether the GFA of the properties has exceeded the maximum GFA permissible; if so, whether the authorities will recover from the owner the premium of the additional floor areas and thoroughly investigate if the owner has breached the law by allowing the erection of UBWs in his properties and allowing the plot ratio to exceed the approved ratio; if the property owner has breached the law, how they will follow up the case?


     The issue of building safety is high on the Government's agenda, and the handling of unauthorised building works (commonly known as UBWs) is one of the major focuses of the work of the Development Bureau and the Buildings Department (BD) in recent years. On the issue of UBWs, the Government has always put the safety of buildings in the first place, and will take a pragmatic stance to handle the issue through prioritisation and categorisation. To this end, we have formulated a clear enforcement policy against UBWs; and BD, which has all along been following the principle of acting in accordance with the law and being impartial to all, handles UBW cases pursuant to the Buildings Ordinance (Cap. 123) (BO) and the prevailing enforcement policy.

     In the middle of last year, there were a spate of media reports on UBW cases involving senior Government officials and celebrities. In response to the public concern on these cases, the BD has formulated and implemented since then a procedure for handling such cases. Under this procedure, the BD will accord priority to carry out site inspections for cases reported by members of the public or by the media involving senior Government officials and celebrities with the objective of clearing any public concerns as soon as possible. After the site inspection, the BD will take appropriate enforcement action in accordance with the BO and the prevailing enforcement policy against UBWs in an impartial manner. Following the principle of acting in accordance with the law and being impartial to all, the BD will not make any special arrangements when carrying out the enforcement actions, irrespective of the identity of the owner.

     On the UBW case relating to the residence of the Chief Executive, the buildings involved are Houses 4 and 5 at No 4 Peel Rise (registered at the Land Registry as Houses B and A respectively). The occupation permit for the two houses was issued in April 1992. According to the occupation permit, House 4 is a three-storey and House 5 a two-storey family residence for domestic use. Both Houses have open parking space for non-domestic use.

     In the afternoon of June 20, 2012, BD received a media enquiry on a structure erected in the garden of House 5. BD subsequently learned from a press report on June 21, 2012 that the case involved the then Chief Executive-elect. Accordingly, pursuant to the aforementioned procedure for handling cases involving senior Government officials and celebrities, BD accorded priority to the case and deployed its staff to visit the subject premises to carry out site inspections and to make detailed records of the inspection findings. In response to the press report on June 22, 2012 concerning a suspected illegal structure erected in the garden of House 4, the BD sent its officers to inspect the premises again in the same morning. With the co-operation of the owner, staff of the BD completed the two inspections smoothly, recorded the UBWs identified and preliminarily checked against the approved building plans.

     According to BD's initial assessment on the two inspections, apart from the structure in the garden of House 5 which was reported by the press on June 21, 2012 and removed before the BD's inspection in the same morning (i.e. the glass frame mentioned in the question), the following UBWs were identified in the two houses -

House 4:
* a covered trellis that was erected in the garden and reported by the press on June 22, 2012 (i.e. the garden trellis mentioned in the question);
* a structure erected next to the trellis;
* a metal gate erected at the access road near the house;

House 5:
* the parking space on ground floor was enclosed and a roof cover was erected; and
* the location beneath the parking space and at the garden level was altered into a floor space.

     Under the prevailing enforcement policy and according to the BD's initial assessment, with the exception of the metal gate erected at the access road near House 4, all remaining UBWs belong to the "actionable" category. Based on the results of the two inspections, the Administration has issued an advisory letter on June 22, 2012, requiring the owner to rectify the concerned UBWs. The Administration also made an announcement on the work of the BD by issuing a press release on the same day in response to media enquiries and public concern.

     My reply to the three-part question is as follows:

(a) The BD does not have information on when the trellis and the glass frame were erected. For cases relating to UBWs in general, the BD will not initiate investigation targeted at such issues. The policy and stance all along adopted by the BD in its enforcement work against UBWs is to require the owner to rectify the situation as soon as possible in order to ensure safety.

     The removal of the concerned trellis and glass frame are minor works items under the Minor Works Control System (MWCS). The owner may thus choose to follow the simplified requirements of the MWCS in carrying out the removal works, without the need to obtain BD's prior approval of the relevant building plans and consent to commence works pursuant to section 14(1) of the BO. According to the requirements of the MWCS on the relevant minor works items, the owner has to appoint qualified prescribed registered contractors to carry out the minor works, and submit information on the works and other relevant documents to the BD for record within 14 days from the completion of works. The prescribed registered contractor appointed by the owner submitted the relevant documents to the BD on June 29, 2012; the Department finished checking the documents and acknowledged the receipt of the same on July 3, 2012.

(b) According to BD's record, the Department has never received any reports or enquiries in relation to UBWs on the concerned premises prior to the media enquiry on June 20, 2012. BD made the first inspection on UBWs in the subject premises on June 21, 2012, and I have also provided a brief report on the result of BD's inspections on June 21 and 22, 2012 just now.

     BD does not have information on whether the owner had appointed professionals to inspect the premises.

(c) In general, the maximum plot ratio and maximum gross floor area (GFA) of a development can be subject to the restrictions of the BO, the Town Planning Ordinance (Cap. 131) and/or its relevant statutory plans, and/or the relevant lease conditions.

     For the case of the development at No 4 Peel Rise, based on the BO and the relevant Outline Zoning Plan (OZP), the permissible maximum plot ratio of the site is 0.5. With reference to calculations made using the plot ratio, the site has a maximum attainable GFA of around 1,400 square metres.
     According to the results of BD's inspection and the photographs included in the relevant press reports, the following items amongst the UBWs in Houses 4 and 5 at No 4 Peel Rise are GFA-accountable -

* the trellis in the garden of House 4, with an area of around six square metres;
* the structure near the trellis in House 4, with an area of around four square metres;
* the floor space beneath the parking space of House 5, with an area of around 22 square metres; and
* the structure in the garden of House 5 that was removed prior to BD's inspection on June 21, 2012, with an area of around 13 square metres based on the photographs included in the press report.

     The above UBWs have a total area of around 45 square metres.

     The enforcement work of the Administration against UBWs is conducted pursuant to the authority under the BO with the primary concern on ensuring building safety, and aims at having the contravention rectified as soon as possible. As such, the issue of land premium is not relevant to BD's enforcement work.

     As regards land lease, the relevant lease for the lot is a 150-year lease from 1888 and it does not contain any conditions on plot ratio or GFA.

Ends/Wednesday, July 4, 2012
Issued at HKT 14:38