Signboard Control System
The existence of a large number of unauthorised signboards is a persistent building safety problem in Hong Kong.
Taking into consideration that many of the existing unauthorised signboards are in active use in business operations and their existence carries notable value for sustaining local commercial activities and contributing to Hong Kong’s prosperity, the BD has introduced the Signboard Control System (SBCS) to control existing unauthorised signboards.
The SBCS includes programmed enforcement action against large unauthorised signboards, regular survey on unauthorised, abandoned or dangerous signboards, and the Signboard Validation Scheme devised to allow certain unauthorised signboards meeting the specified criteria to be retained for continued use after validation.
Under the Buildings Ordinance (Cap 123) (BO), the erection of signboards is building works and requires the prior approval of plans and consent for commencement of works of the BD.
With the full implementation of the Minor Works Control System (MWCS) set out in the Building (Minor Works) Regulation (B(MW)R) since 31 December 2010, signboard owners can choose to erect, alter or remove certain types of signboards which are relatively small in scale and pose less potential risk through the simplified requirements without obtaining prior approval and consent from the BD.
The B(MW)R has also identified certain signboard works with complexity and risk to safety lower than that of the minor works as "Designated Exempted Works" which require no prior approval and consent from the BD, nor the appointment of building professionals and registered contractors for carrying out the works.
Apart from those signboards erected in accordance with either of the above procedures and "Designated Exempted Works", all other signboards will be regarded as unauthorised signboards subject to enforcement action by the BD.
Enforcement Actions against Unauthorised Signboards
The BD takes a three-pronged approach to curb new unauthorised building works (UBW), reduce number of existing UBW and attain a cultural change through education and publicity programmes.
Based on the revised enforcement policy promulgated in April 2011, the BD has re-focused its priorities and broadened the scope for enforcement action against UBW including unauthorised signboards.
Apart from dealing with the reports received on unauthorised signboards, the BD proactively conducts large scale clearance operations to remove those unauthorised signboards not joining or not eligible for joining the Validation Scheme.
Removal orders are issued requiring signboard owners to remove unauthorised signboards within a specified period.
Removal Orders for Unauthorised Signboards
Where the erection of signboards is unauthorised, pursuant to the provisions in section 24(2)(c) of the BO, the Building Authority may issue removal orders to the persons who shall be responsible for removing the unauthorised signboards concerned.
If the signboard owners do not comply with the removal orders, the BD will :
- have the demolition work carried out by a Government contractor and then bill them for all costs plus a supervision charge and a surcharge; and/or
- instigate prosecution against them.
Dangerous Structure Removal Notices for Abandoned or Dangerous Signboards
For abandoned or dangerous signboards (see Guidelines for Identification of Abandoned or Dangerous Signboards), the BD will issue a Dangerous Structure Removal Notice (DSRN) under section 105(1) of the Public Health and Municipal Services Ordinance.
Where the DSRN has not been complied with after its expiry, the BD may arrange a Government contractor to remove the dangerous or abandoned signboard concerned and recover any expenses incurred in the removal and in the disposal of the materials from the owner afterwards.