Lands Department continues to take enforcement actions against unauthorised structures on private agricultural land

     To combat construction of unauthorised structures on private agricultural land, the Lands Department (LandsD) has stepped up enforcement actions against such misuse of private land since April 2014. Up to the end of June 2015, the department has taken action against 838 cases, of which 208 cases have been completed.

     Of the 208 completed cases, five cases involving five private agricultural lots were re-entered by LandsD as a result of the owners' failure to demolish the unauthorised structures despite repeated warnings. As for the remaining 203 cases involving a total of 224 private agricultural lots, the unauthorised structures were demolished. Among them, demolition works for 188 cases (involving 209 lots) were undertaken by the owners upon receipt of LandsD's warnings and 15 cases (involving 15 lots) were undertaken by LandsD.

     "After the implementation of the enhanced enforcement measures, lot owners generally tended to take LandsD's warning letters and action of 'imposing an encumbrance' more seriously. The number of cases of demolition works shows that LandsD's strategy has been effective in compelling the lot owners concerned to take responsibility and rectify the breach of lease," a spokesman for the department said.

     The spokesman said that among the 838 cases where LandsD has taken action, 58 cases involved structures being erected (Works-In-Progress or WIP cases) and 780 cases involved completed structures (non-WIP cases). Depending on the nature and progress of individual cases, LandsD's action included issue of statutory demolition orders and warning letters, registration of warning letters in the Land Registry and/or ultimately re-entry of land.

     LandsD will continue to follow up on active cases where enforcement action has been triggered, including 10 cases which may warrant re-entry in the near future if the lot owners concerned fail to demolish the structures in time.

     The department urges owners of private agricultural land to demolish unauthorised structures and reserves the right to trigger re-entry action without giving further notice once warning letters have been issued. While the former owner may apply for relief against re-entry by petition to the Chief Executive or by application to the Court of First Instance under the Government Rights (Re-entry and Vesting Remedies) Ordinance (Chapter 126), the processing will take time and the Government takes no responsibility for any loss suffered by the former owner. In processing the petition for cancellation of the re-entry, the Government also reserves all rights to impose conditions which may include requiring the former owner to pay a penalty that may have the effect of offsetting the profits/rent estimated to be generated during the unauthorised use.

     LandsD's measures against construction of unauthorised structures on private agricultural land since April 2014 include:

(a) Once it has come to LandsD's attention that there is an unauthorised WIP structure on private agricultural land, a statutory notice under the Land (Miscellaneous Provisions) Ordinance (Chapter 28) will be issued, requiring the lot owner to stop the works and demolish the WIP structure within a week. If the lot owner fails to comply, LandsD will proceed with the demolition works under Chapter 28 as soon as possible before occupation of the structure, and thereafter recover the relevant costs from the lot owner;

(b) LandsD will not entertain any application for regularisation of any WIP structures on private agricultural land or involving unauthorised structures used for domestic purposes; and

(c) For any completed and occupied unauthorised structures on private agricultural land where the breach is not purged despite an encumbrance having been imposed on the land by registration of a warning letter in the Land Registry, LandsD will, as a standard practice, proceed with re-entry of the private agricultural land under the lease and Chapter 126.

Ends/Wednesday, August 12, 2015
Issued at HKT 11:28