Buildings Department continues to take follow-up action on unauthorised building works at Houses 4 and 5 at No. 4 Peel Rise
In response to media enquiries on the unauthorised building works (UBWs) at Houses 4 and 5 at No. 4 Peel Rise, a spokesman of the Buildings Department (BD) today (November 27) responded as follows:
The BD has all along taken enforcement action against UBWs in accordance with the Buildings Ordinance (BO) and the prevailing enforcement policy, following the principle of acting in accordance with the law and being impartial to all. 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 an impartial manner. The department will not make any special arrangements because of the identity of the owner when carrying out enforcement action.
BD's follow-up and enforcement action since late June in view of relevant media reports
After the media reported on June 21 that there were suspected UBWs at the then Chief Executive-elect's premises, the BD immediately acted in accordance with the established procedures for handling cases involving senior government officials and celebrities and sent staff to visit the subject building for inspection and prepared a detailed record of the inspection results. Also, in response to the media report on June 22 concerning UBWs in the garden of House 4, the department sent staff again to inspect the premises on that day. On June 22, the BD gave a public account of the UBWs identified during the site inspections carried out on June 21 and June 22 at Houses 4 and 5 of No. 4 Peel Rise. Based on the results of the two inspections, apart from the glass shelter in the garden of House 5 which had been removed prior to the BD's inspection in the same morning, as reported by the media on June 21, other UBWs were identified by the BD staff in the two premises, as listed below:
A trellis for plants that was erected in the garden of House 4, which was reported by the media on June 22. The trellis had a width of about 6 metres and a depth of about 1m.
UBWs that were not mentioned in the reports by the media on June 21 and 22:
- A structure erected next to the trellis in the garden, with an area of about 2m by 2m and about 2.5m in height; and
- a metal gate erected at the access road near the house.
- The parking space on the 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 with an area of about 6.4m by 3.5m and a height ranging from about 1.7m to 2m.
In accordance with the established procedures, the BD issued an advisory letter to the owner on June 22, advising the owner to rectify the above irregularities as soon as possible. Under the prevailing enforcement policy, UBWs located at the exterior of buildings (in particular those situated on the rooftops or podium flat roofs, or in yards or lanes), except amenity features, are classified as "actionable" items. As such, with the exception of the metal gate at the access road near House 4, all the other four UBWs listed above belong to the "actionable" category requiring priority enforcement. According to the results of inspection carried out by the BD staff on June 26, the trellis concerned and the structure erected next to the trellis at House 4, as well as the glass shelter in the garden and the enclosure and roof cover of the parking space on the ground floor of House 5, had been removed. As the removal works were minor works items under the Minor Works Control System (MWCS), the owner could choose to follow the simplified requirements of the MWCS in carrying out the removal works, without the need to obtain the 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 simplified requirements of the MWCS in respect of the relevant minor works items, the prescribed registered contractor appointed by the owner submitted the relevant documents to the BD on June 29; the department finished checking the documents and acknowledged the receipt of the same on July 3.
As regards floor space at the garden level formed beneath the parking space of House 5, the BD had received the remedial proposal submitted by the owner's authorised person (AP) and accepted it on October 30. The department will follow up with the AP on the remedial works.
Floor space on lower ground floor of House 4
In response to media reports on June 26 concerning a suspected "unauthorised servant's room" on the lower ground floor of House 4, the BD staff had inspected the lower ground floor of House 4 on the same day. As mentioned in the department's reply to the media on June 28, no suspected "unauthorised servant's room" or other UBWs were identified. After checking the approved building plans, the BD staff noted that the original store room had been altered to a sauna room and a shower room. After assessment, it was confirmed that such alteration works did not involve the structure of the building and thus were exempted building works.
Furthermore, the BD staff noticed that the position of part of the external wall of the original store room did not match with that shown on the original approved building plans. As such, when responding to media enquiries, the BD had stated that the department would follow up with the AP appointed by the owner, and that in respect of the UBWs in Houses 4 and 5 the department would continue to analyse the inspection results and the necessary following-up. Following the established procedures, the BD issued a letter to the owner and his AP on June 27, requesting information on the construction and purpose of the wall concerned. The BD issued three written reminders thereafter. After the site inspection yesterday (November 26) (please refer to below), the department would continue to follow up with the AP on this matter.
Storage cabinet in House 5
During the inspection on June 26, the BD staff noticed that the enclosure and roof cover of the parking space on the ground floor at House 5 had been removed. The storage cabinet originally placed in the parking space was thus exposed in open air and became an outdoor structure. After taking the measurements of the storage cabinet, it was confirmed that the storage cabinet was an actionable item for UBWs. The BD staff immediately reminded the AP that the storage cabinet should also be removed.
Electrical retractable canopy at House 4
As for the enquiry from the media on June 29 concerning an unauthorised electrical retractable canopy erected at House 4, according to the BD's inspection on July 9 the canopy was erected over the master bedroom's doorway towards the flat roof on 1/F of House 4. The canopy was made of a retractable metal frame and canvas materials, and projected from the external wall at the above location. After checking the relevant records, the BD confirmed that the canopy was UBWs.
According to the BD's prevailing enforcement policy against UBWs, the above retractable canopy satisfied the criteria for amenity features as it did not extend more than 2m from the external wall and did not exceed a height of 2.5m from the flat roof level. As it was an amenity feature, not constituting structural danger, nor affecting the structure of the building or obstructing the fire escape routes, the canopy did not fall into the "actionable" category of UBWs. Therefore, the BD did not intend to issue a statutory order to the owner at this stage. However, the BD issued an advisory letter to the owner on July 19, advising him to remove the UBWs or rectify the irregularities.
BD inspection on November 26
The Chief Executive issued a statement on his property on November 23. The BD staff conducted a site inspection of Houses 4 and 5 together with the owner's AP yesterday afternoon. The aim of the inspection was to follow up and investigate two UBWs mentioned in the relevant statement, including:
- A toilet on the ground floor at the yard of House 4; and
- The floor space on the lower ground floor of House 4.
Toilet on ground floor in yard of House 4
According to the inspection results yesterday, a roof cover was erected over the open yard on the ground floor of House 4. The space was altered to a toilet. Since the alteration and addition works were carried out without the prior approval and consent of the BD, these works were unauthorised. These UBWs were actionable items under the prevailing enforcement policy. During the inspection, it was noticed that part of the structure had been removed. The department will follow up.
Floor space on lower ground floor of House 4
According to the inspection results yesterday, the condition of the external wall of the store room on the lower ground floor of House 4 was more or less the same as that revealed in the inspection on June 26. The BD staff immediately requested the AP to arrange for the opening up of that wall as soon as possible for further inspection.
Procedures and principles of BD inspection
When handling public and media reports involving UBWs, the BD would send staff to conduct site inspection and records checking. The department would take appropriate follow-up action in accordance with the BO and the prevailing enforcement policy. During the inspection, the BD staff mainly aim to confirm whether the suspected UBWs as mentioned in the public or media reports are substantiated. They would not inspect other private areas at will. The BD staff had conducted previous inspections in Houses 4 and 5 in accordance with the above-mentioned procedures and principles.
As regards the alteration and addition works carried out at the above address in 2000, according to the BD's records, the alteration and addition works were approved by the BD. The BD staff conducted site inspection in 2001 upon completion of the alteration and addition works to check if the works had been completed in accordance with the approved building plans. The BD staff had conducted the inspection in accordance with the above-mentioned procedures and principles.
The policy and stance all along adopted by the BD in its enforcement work against UBWs is to require the owner to rectify the irregularities as soon as possible in order to ensure safety. Under normal circumstances, the BD will not initiate criminal investigation lightly on whether there have been contraventions of the BO. The BD will also follow this established principle and stance impartially when determining the required follow-up actions for cases involving senior government officials and celebrities. The identity of the owner is not among the factors considered by the BD as to whether criminal investigation has to be initiated. The BD is now handling the UBWs at the above-mentioned address in accordance with the procedures for UBWs cases in general. The department will also continue to analyse and process the information gathered with a view to determining the necessary follow-up actions.
Ends/Tuesday, November 27, 2012