LCQ21: Private Street Resumption Programme

     Following is a question by the Hon Lau Kwok-fun and a written reply by the Secretary for Home Affairs, Mr Lau Kong-wah, in the Legislative Council today (November 22):

     In 1986, the Government launched a programme for the resumption and maintenance of private streets under the Roads (Works, Use and Compensation) Ordinance (Cap. 370) with a view to managing and maintaining those streets more effectively (the Resumption Programme). Between 1986 and 1995, 166 private streets in the urban areas were selected and included in the Resumption Programme. It was reported in September this year that the authorities had resumed only 70 streets and deleted 85 streets from the Resumption Programme, and some of the deleted streets currently still have serious environmental hygiene problems. Moreover, there are serious problems such as flooding, road blockage and poor environmental hygiene in some streets that have never been selected and included in the Programme. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(1) of the current number of private streets open for public use across the territory and, among them, the respective numbers of managed and unmanaged streets;

(2) of the respective numbers of complaints received by various government departments in the past five years concerning private streets, together with a breakdown by the problem (e.g. environmental hygiene, traffic and damaged road surface) involved in the complaints;

(3) of the latest progress of the Resumption Programme, and set out the numbers of streets (i) resumed and (ii) deleted from the Programme since 1986 (in groups each covering five years) in the table below;
  1986 to 1990 1991 to 1995 1996 to 2000 2001 to 2005 2006 to 2010 2011 to 2015 2016 to 2017
(Up to October)

(4) whether the Resumption Programme has now been completed; if so, whether it has conducted a review and drawn a conclusion, and whether it will publish a report; if the Programme is not yet completed, of the expected completion time;

(5) of the current number of private streets the resumption procedure for which has not yet been completed due to problems such as complicated ownership and existence of unauthorised building works; whether it has studied how the problems concerned can be addressed expediently in order to complete the resumption procedure; if so, of the details; if not, the reasons for that;

(6) whether it now regularly inspects the conditions (including the hygiene conditions) of the streets that have been deleted from the Resumption Programme, and explores improvement measures; if so, of the details; if not, the reasons for that;

(7) regarding the private streets which have not been included in the Resumption Programme and which have serious environmental hygiene problems, of the measures the Government has in place to assist the owners concerned in improving the management of such streets, including whether it will consider launching a new round of the Resumption Programme; and

(8) whether it will introduce measures (e.g. encourage the owners, through the provision of incentives, to voluntarily return the streets to the Government, and strengthening communication with the owners' corporations concerned) to facilitate improvement to the conditions of all the private streets across the territory that are open for public use; if so, of the details; if not, the reasons for that?

     In 1986, the Government launched a Private Street Resumption Programme (the Programme) to coordinate departmental efforts in resuming private streets which were under multiple ownerships and with serious environmental problems caused by the lack of management and maintenance. The aim of the Programme is to improve the conditions of private streets with environmental hygiene problems.
     This Programme has a policy principle, i.e. resumption of private streets should not involve compensation payments by the Government. Compensation claims often involve long and protracted legal processes. If such claims are successful, the Government would incur additional expenditure and time on top of the costs for improving the conditions of the streets.   

     â€‹Upon the launch of this Programme, a Private Street Resumption Committee (the Committee), chaired by representative of Home Affairs Department (HAD), was set up to coordinate the efforts of nine government bureau/departments in resuming the private streets. These nine bureau/departments are the Transport and Housing Bureau, the Transport Department (TD), the Highways Department (HyD), the Buildings Department (BD), the Lands Department (LandsD), the Housing Department, the Fire Services Department, the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department (FEHD), and the Drainage Services Department. The Government resumed and improved the private streets included in the Programme under the provisions of the Roads (Works, Use and Compensation) Ordinance (Cap. 370). 
     Based on the information provided by District Offices (DOs) from 1986 to 1995, the Committee has considered 166 private streets under the Programme. Of the 166 private streets, 70 of them had been resumed and repaired, and 79 of them had been deleted from the Programme (the situation of the remaining 17 private streets is provided in parts (4) and (5) of the answer below). The deletion of the 79 streets was based on various considerations, including the street conditions having improved, or resumption of these streets would involve compensation claims issue. These streets have been deleted from the Programme because resuming them would no longer meet the policy principle of the Programme.
     After consulting the FEHD, HyD, BD, TD, LandsD and the Hong Kong Police Force (HKPF), our reply to the eight parts of the question raised by the Hon Lau Kwok-fan is as follows:

(1) LandsD does not possess information of private streets in the territory nor private streets which are opened to public use. 

(2) Complaint figures about private streets received by relevant departments in the past five years are listed below: 
  Number of complaints received regarding private streets
  2013 2014 2015 2016 2017
HyD 3 5 5 8 13
TD A total of 40 public enquiries on traffic management of private streets were handled in the past five years.
No statistics were compiled on the number of complaints received about private streets.
     If the location in question was confirmed to be related to repairs in private streets, the relevant departments would inform the land owners to do the repair works.
     The FEHD replied that the management, cleansing and repair of common areas of private premises (including private streets and private rear lanes) are the responsibilities of the owners concerned. Given the complex ownership of private streets and rear lanes, and the prerequisite of protecting public health, if the hygiene conditions remain poor and if resources permit, the FEHD will address the requests of the District Councils and consider providing routine street-cleansing service for private streets and private rear lanes with environmental hygiene problems. At present, the FEHD provides routine street cleansing service for 55 private streets in the territory as well as street sweeping service for private rear lanes with the aforesaid conditions and requiring Government assistance.
     In short, if owners of private streets could not organise themselves to carry out urgent environmental improvement works, the relevant departments will, depending on the situation, conduct urgent remedial works to ensure public safety. 

(3) The latest progress of the Programme regarding the numbers of streets (i) resumed and (ii) deleted from the Programme since 1986 (in groups each covering five years) is listed in the table below: 
  1986 to 1990 1991 to 1995 1996 to 2000 2001 to 2005 2006 to 2010 2011 to 2015 2016 to 2017
(Up to October)
(i) 27 39 4 - - - - 70
(ii) - 41 36 2 - - - 79
(4) and (5) At present, 17 streets included in the Programme are pending resumption or deletion from the Programme. According to the BD, six of the streets have been assessed and it is confirmed that resumption of these six streets may result in reduction of site area upon redevelopment and hence involve compensation claims issue. Resumption need for another two streets no longer exists as the streets have been redeveloped. For the remaining nine streets, they are pending the assessment results of possible compensation claims and other matters by the BD.
(6) to (8) Private streets are private properties. The management and maintenance responsibilities of private streets rest with the land owners. Under normal circumstances, the Government will not be involved in the management of private properties, including private streets. The Government will only provide assistance to property owners under exceptional circumstances and where significant public interest is involved.
     To effectively tackle the environmental hygiene problems of the private streets, DOs have since 2003 been playing a co-ordinating role in liaising with residents and relevant departments and assisting in the implementation of environmental hygiene improvement projects.  If owners of private streets cannot organise themselves to carry out urgent environmental improvement works such as the repair of blocked drains and sewers, the Government will take up the improvement works on their behalf.  Government expenses are recovered from the owners/occupiers concerned after the completion of works.
     In sum, as in the cases of common areas of multi-storey buildings, the land owners are responsible for the cleansing, maintenance and management of private streets. The Government has no intention to carry out another phase of private street resumption.

Ends/Wednesday, November 22, 2017
Issued at HKT 17:23