LC Paper No. CB(1)1789/98-99
(These minutes have been seen by
LegCo Panel on Planning, Lands and Works
Minutes of meeting held on Thursday, 15 April 1999, at 10:45 am
in Conference Room A of the Legislative Council Building
Members present :
Hon Edward HO Sing-tin, JP (Chairman)
Dr Hon TANG Siu-tong, JP (Deputy Chairman)
Hon HO Sai-chu, JP
Dr Hon Raymond HO Chung-tai, JP
Hon LEE Wing-tat
Hon Ronald ARCULLI, JP
Non-Panel member attending:
Hon Howard YOUNG, JP
Members absent :
Hon James TO Kun-sun
Hon WONG Yung-kan
Hon LAU Kong-wah
Hon LAU Wong-fat, GBS, JP
Hon Andrew CHENG Kar-foo
Hon TAM Yiu-chung, JP
Public officers attending:
- For items IV & V
- Mr Patrick LAU
- Deputy Secretary for Planning, Environment and
Lands (Lands and Planning)
- Mr Esmond LEE
- Principal Assistant Secretary for Planning,
Environment and Lands (Lands)
- For item IV
- Mr Philip LAU
- Assistant Director of Buildings (Specialist)
- Mr TSUI Ho
- Chief Buildings Surveyor (Dangerous Buildings)
- For item V
- Mr A G COOPER
- Land Registrar
- For item VI
- Mr K C LAU
- Principal Assistant Secretary for Works
(Policy and Development)
- Mr Tony TOY
- Project Director 1
Architectural Services Department
- Mrs Mimi BROWN
- Deputy Government Property Administrator
Government Property Agency
- Mr A H RICHARDSON
- Project Manager 121
Architectural Services Department
- Mr H I KWONG
- Chief Assistant Secretary for Works
Clerk in attendance :
- Miss Odelia LEUNG,
- Chief Assistant Secretary (1)1
Staff in attendance :
- Mrs Mary TANG,
- Senior Assistant Secretary (1)2
I Confirmation of minutes of meeting
(LC Paper Nos. CB(1)1057 and 1009/98-99)
The minutes of meetings held on 19 January 1999 and 11 February
1999 were confirmed.
II Date of next meeting and items for discussion
2. Members agreed to discuss the following items proposed by the
Administration at the next Panel meeting scheduled for 13 May 1999 at 10:45
- West Kowloon Drainage Improvement stages 2 and 3;
- Replacement and rehabilitation of watermains, stage 1 phase 1; and
- Recommendations on the Urban Renewal Authority and the Urban Renewal
(Post-meeting note: Item (c) was subsequently withdrawn at the request
of the Administration.)
3. Members also agreed to discuss the new control measures for
New Territories exempted houses introduced by the Administration following
the collapse of a balcony in Swallow Garden.
4. Referring to the Administration’s paper on slope safety which
was circulated under LC Paper No CB(1) 1076/98-99, Dr Raymond HO requested
that the Panel discuss the paper later.
(Post meeting note: The subject on slope safety was discussed at the
Panel meeting on 10 June 1999.)
III Information papers issued since last meeting
5. Members noted the following information papers issued since
last meeting -
|Paper No. CB(1)998/98-99 -|| extract from minutes of LegCo Members’
meeting with Kowloon City Provisional District Board on 17 December 1998
regarding resumption of private streets;
|Paper No. CB(1)1039/98-99 - ||information paper on the retention of a
Government Land Agent Post (D2) to head the Task Force (Black Spots) in
|Paper No. CB(1)1076/98-99 - ||information paper on slope safety;.
|Paper No. CB(1)1077/98-99 - ||extract from minutes of LegCo Members’
meeting with North Provisional District Board on 5 November 1998 regarding
|Paper Nos. CB(1)1083|
|letters from utility companies
objecting against the proposed charging and penalty system for road opening
works and the Administration’s response; and
|Paper No. CB(1)1119/98-99 -||information paper on the creation
of a Chief Architect post for Cheung Sha Wan Wholesale Market Complex Phase
2 and a Chief Architect (Multi-disciplinary) post and a Chief Quantity
Surveyor post for the whole-day Primary Schools Programme in Architectural
IV Proposed control scheme for advertisement signboards
(LC Paper No. CB(1)1113/98-99(01))
6. With the aid of a computer, the Principal Assistant Secretary
for Planning, Environment and Lands (PAS/PEL) explained the safety problem
of advertisement signboards and the details of the proposed control scheme
by highlighting the salient points of the Administration’s paper.
Hiring of professionals
7. The Chairman pointed out that whilst this Panel had asked for
some kind of control over advertisement signboards for some time, he however
was concerned about the procedures involved and the cost of the proposed
control scheme. Under the proposed scheme, signboards exceeded five
square metres in size and 300 millimetres in thickness would need approval
from the Building Authority (BA) on their structural details. He
enquired if most signboards exceeded those dimensions.
8. PAS/PEL said that the proposed registration scheme was intended
to strike a balance between non-regulation and excessive control.
This explained why certain signboards, such as typical shop-front signboards,
which posed low risk to public safety would be exempted from registration.
The Assistant Director of Buildings (Specialist) (AD of B) said that based
on the result of sample surveys of signboards in Shamshuipo and Wanchai
districts, the Administration estimated that about 12% of existing advertisement
signboards exceeded five square metres in size. Having regard to
the loading effect of a signboard in relation to its size and supporting
system, the Administration specified the size and thickness of a signboard
which would require approval from BA. For installation of signboards
exceeding the stipulated dimensions, an Authorised Person, and in the present
case, a Registered Structural Engineer, would have to submit the structural
details of the signboard to BA for approval.
9. Mr LEE Wing-tat said that while supporting in principle the
introduction of a registration system for advertisement signboards, he
had reservations about the requirement to hire registered contractors or
Authorised Persons, where appropriate, for certifying the structural safety
of signboards or submitting plans to BA. Given the rare incidents
of falling signboards causing injuries in the past, he considered the proposed
measure of requiring professional assistance in installing signboards both
costly and overly strict. He was of the view that it would suffice
to register the owners/companies installing the signboards. The crucial
point was to hold them personally liable for matters relating to the signboard
and they would be ready to maintain them. Failure to maintain, not
improper installation, often made signboards become dangerous or dilapidated.
10. PAS/PEL stressed that only signboards which exceeded the stipulated
dimensions would require the submission of plans by Authorised Persons.
The Administration would review the size of signboards which would require
the approval of BA, after consultation with the public.
11. As regards registration of signboard contractors, AD of B
said that the matter was still under consideration. The initial idea
was to establish a new registration system for signboard contractors.
To qualify for registration as a signboard contractor, a person should
possess sufficient knowledge about installation of signboards. Professional
qualification would not be considered necessary. Existing signboard
contractors who had the expertise in signboard installation and repairs
could be registered under the scheme. It was expected that the proposed
scheme would not incur substantial extra cost on the part of signboard
Costs of erecting signboards
12. Mr HO Sai-chu said that the introduction of a registration
system for signboard contractors would induce contractors to charge higher
fees. An overly complex control scheme would adversely affect the
advertising industry and commercial activities. He was concerned
that the additional cost incurred would inhibit businesses from installing
signboards. This would affect tourism since advertisement signboards
had been a tourist attraction.
13. PAS/PEL said that the Administration was conscious of
the cost implications for business operators. It therefore proposed
a more cost-effective registration system instead of a licensing system.
He added that even under the existing legislation, certain signboards were
already subject to control under the Buildings Ordinance and had to be
approved by BA before installation. The proposed scheme would provide clear
guidelines on the types of signboards which were subject to control.
14. As regards Mr Ronald ARCULLI’s enquiry about the cost
of installing and registering signboards under the proposed control scheme,
AD of B said that the registration fee was estimated to be around $600
irrespective of the size of the signboard. The cost of installing
signboards would depend on the design and complexity of the job.
In response to members, the Administration agreed to provide a comparison
on the current costs of installing an advertisement signboard and the additional
costs incurred under the proposed control scheme, including the costs of
hiring Authorised Persons for submitting plans to BA for signboards exceeding
the stipulated dimensions.
Definition of signboard owners
15. The Chairman opined that the proposed control scheme would
put the onus on owners of signboards to ensure their safety. Mr LEE
Wing-tat said that if owners would be held responsible for their signboards,
they would take proper maintenance action, knowing that failing of which
might cause the Government to remove the signboards and recover the costs
16. Noting members’ concern about owners’ responsibility, the
Deputy Secretary for Planning, Environmental and Lands (DS/PEL) said that
before implementing the proposed control scheme, it was essential to clearly
define the meaning of signboards owners on whom action could be taken where
necessary. PAS/PEL said that the initial thinking was that signboard
owners should include not only persons erecting the signboards, but also
owners of companies whose goods or trade were being advertised, and owners
of buildings/property to which the signboards were attached or on which
they were erected. The reason for holding building owners responsible
was that the external walls and its attachments were considered part of
a building and should remain the owners’ responsibility. If owners
agreed to the installation of signboards, they should be held responsible
for their safety. Under the proposed 3-tier meaning of signboard
owners, where necessary, the Administration would take action on persons
in respect of the signboard in the following order: applicant for
erecting the signboard, the company on which the signboards displayed,
and the owners of buildings to which the signboard was attached.
17. Dr TANG Siu-tong considered the proposed definition of signboard
owners unfair to building owners. The Chairman opined that the proposed
scheme which would hold building/property owners liable for matters associated
with the signboard in question would have cost implications as building
owners would demand a higher price for approving the erection of signboards
to their building.
18. Mr Ronald ARCULLI said that the Administration had not provided
sufficient information in the paper on the details of the proposed control
scheme. Although he supported control of signboards through registration,
he was concerned about the liability of private property owners under the
proposed scheme. He further pointed out that a rental contract for
commercial premises normally lasted for three years but the proposed validity
period of registration of a signboard was five years. Problems would
likely arise as signboard owners might be untraceable after they had moved
out from their rented premises. There might also be title problems
about the external walls of a building which would further complicate the
scheme. As an alternative means of control, Mr ARCULLI suggested
that signboard owners should be required either to pay a registration fee
or to make a deposit upon application for erection of signboards.
The money so collected could cover the cost of removing abandoned or dangerous
signboards should it be deemed necessary in future.
19. Mr HO Sai-chu echoed Mr ACCULLI’s view. He considered
the proposal to recover costs from a tier of signboards owners extremely
cumbersome. As the crux of the problem rested with the need to remove
abandoned or dangerous signboards, he supported the proposal to require
the payment of a deposit when a signboard was registered.
20. DS/PEL concurred that the control of advertisement signboards
was a complex issue and this explained why the Administration had yet to
introduce a regulation system. The proposed scheme was an initial
concept and the Administration was seeking members’ views before consulting
the public. The Administration had considered the merits of requiring
payment of a deposit for registration of an advertisement signboard.
Fixing the appropriate amount of such a deposit would be crucial.
A small deposit would be insufficient to cover the necessary expenses,
whereas a large deposit would be a burden on signboard owners. The
Administration would consider requiring payment of a deposit for registration
if this was found to be well supported. PAS/PEL emphasised that the
Administration did not intend to seek the Panel’s approval to implement
the proposed scheme at this stage. The Administration would formulate
details of the registration scheme in the light of the outcome of consultation
over the next few months and would revert to the Panel after the summer
21. On behalf of Mr James TO, Mr LEE Wing-tat enquired about the
existing way of handling abandoned signboards. AD of B said that
Buildings Department would remove signboards which posed a safety hazard
to the public and would recover the removal cost from the owners concerned.
If the owners could not be found, the cost would be paid by the public
22. In response to Mr HO Sai-chu’s enquiry about the scope of
consultation on the proposed control scheme, PAS/PEL said that the Administration
would consult the Hong Kong Tourist Association, retail associations, Hong
Kong Contractors’ Association, the advertising industry and other affected
V Retention of a supernumerary Deputy Principal Solicitor (DPS) post
for the Land Registry for the introduction and implementation of the Title
(LC Paper No. CB(1)1113/98-99(02))
23. The Land Registrar (LR) said that the Finance Committee approved
in February 1994 the creation of the supernumerary post of DPS to handle
matters relating to the introduction of the Land Titles Bill (the Bill).
The Bill was introduced into LegCo in November 1994 and LegCo decided to
curtail examination of it in June 1995. Subject to the approval by
the Executive Council, the Bill would be re-introduced into LegCo in July
1999. The Administration therefore proposed to retain the supernumerary
post of DPS for the introduction and implementation of the title registration
system. LR stressed that members’ support of the post would not commit
them to the support of the Bill. In the event that the Bill was not
supported by LegCo, the post would be deleted.
24. The Chairman enquired about the impact on the incumbent should
the post of DPS be deleted. LR said that the Legal Division of the
Land Registry was manned by solicitors from the unified solicitors grade
in the Government. Solicitors of this grade were deployed to a number
of departments, including the Land Registry. The incumbent of the
post of DPS would re-join the grade for re-posting if the post was subsequently
25. Responding to Mr LEE Wing-tat’s enquiry about the scope of
responsibility of the DPS post when it was approved in 1994. PAS/PEL
said that DPS was responsible for planning work on the Bill, steering the
Bill through LegCo and undertaking preparatory work for the implementation
of the new legislation. Upon the decision of LegCo in June 1995 to
curtail examination of the Bill, the supernumerary post subsequently lapsed
on 1 July 1996. Notwithstanding the decision of LegCo, the Land Registry
continued consultation with the Law Society and other interested bodies
since July 1995. The Bill had been revised in the light of comments
received. The Administration was still discussing with the Law Society
on the draft.
26. Mr LEE Wing-tat pointed out that normally the Director or
Assistant Director of a department would take charge of the introduction
of a bill falling within its purview and a post would not be created for
the purpose. However, owing to the complexity of the Bill, he would
support the retention of the DPS post. He stressed that the approval
for the retention of the DPS post for the introduction of the Bill was
an isolated case and should not be regarded as a precedent.
27. LR noted the member’s concern. He said that apart from
the complexity of the Bill, there were other issues associated with its
practical and non-legal aspects which required the expertise of a DPS.
The duties of the DPS had been listed out in enclosure 2 of the paper,
which included, inter alia, the conduct of research on the financial arrangements
of a proposed indemnity fund. These duties were additional to the
normal processing of a bill.
28. Mr Ronald ARCULLI said that he would not generally support
the creation of a supernumerary post to deal with the introduction of a
new policy. He however noted that the Bill raised difficult and technical
issues. The then Bills Committee had formed a technical sub-group
to study the Bill which held over 15 meetings before curtailment of examination.
Given the divergent views on the title registration system, he agreed that
without the DPS post, it would be difficult for the issue to go forward.
A non-legally qualified person would be at a less advantaged position to
deal with professional and non-professional bodies. He therefore
supported the retention of the DPS post although he did not support the
concept of the title registration system.
VI Combined maintenance depot at Tin Shui Wai, Yuen Long
(Paper No. CB(1)1113/98-99(03)
29. The Principal Assistant Secretary for Works (Policy and Development)
(PAS/W) explained the background and the justification for the proposal
of constructing a permanent combined maintenance depot for Water Supplies
Department (WSD), Electrical and Mechanical Services Department (EMSD),
Drainage Services Department (DSD), Architectural Services Department (ASD)
and Highways Department (HyD) on a vacant site in Tin Tan Street, Tin Shui
Wai, Yuen Long. He advised that the Administration intended to submit
a funding application to the Public Works Subcommittee in May 1999 to upgrade
part of 31 GK to Category A for commissioning pre-contract consultancy
services including design and contract document preparation, at an estimated
cost of $43 million (at December 1998 prices).
Development strategy and cost benefits
30. Noting that individual works departments had already set up
their own maintenance depots in various regions, the Chairman enquired
whether some of these depots would be released upon the commissioning of
the proposed combined maintenance depot, and if so, whether the reprovisioning
would result in an overall increase or decrease in area.
31. PAS/W said that the WSD Mainland North West Regional Office
in Argyle Street would be reprovisioned with a larger accommodation in
the combined maintenance depot in Tin Shui Wai. Meanwhile, a permanent
sub-depot of a net area of about 350 square metres would be required for
DSD. In view of the substantial financial commitment for the construction
of the combined maintenance depot, Mr HO Sai-chu requested and the Administration
agreed to provide information on the cost benefits of the project and a
breakdown on the sites which could be released for redevelopment or otherwise
as a result of the reprovisioning in Tin Shui Wai.
32. Dr Raymond HO sought clarification on the justification for
the combined depot. He was of the view that regionalization, not
centralization, should be more efficient as far as delivering maintenance
and repair services was concerned. He enquired if the purpose of
centralizing services was to release needed space in the urban area for
redevelopment. He also pointed out the large number of vacant industrial
buildings which could be utilized as depots.
33. PAS/W responded that industrial buildings might not be suitable
as these were not purpose-built for use as depots. The intended function
of the proposed facilities was to serve the separate and distinct needs
for regional depots of the various departments. The proposed building
contributed to regionalisation, as some works departments like WSD and
DSD did not yet have regional depots in the western and north-western parts
of the New Territories. On the other hand, regional depots of various
departments were to be accommodated in one building so as to make full
use of the available site.
34. Noting that EMSD had, following the establishment of the Electrical
and Mechanical Services Trading Fund (EMSTF), undertaken a major reorganization
and regionalization exercise and had developed a number of smaller satellite
depots in the New Territories, Mr HO Sai-chu enquired whether EMSD intended
to revert back to its former mode of providing centralized services.
PAS/W said in response that the existing vehicle workshop servicing vehicles
for Kowloon and the New Territories was located at the Sung Wong Toi Depot.
To improve efficiency and to assist in the eventual release of the site
for redevelopment, the Administration proposed to reprovision the workshop
in Tin Shui Wai. The workshop on the Hong Kong Island would take
over some of the services which were being provided by the Sung Wong Toi
Asset value of EMSTF
35. Members sought information on the impact on asset value of
EMSTF should the Sung Wong Toi Depot be reprovisioned in Tin Shui Wai.
The Chairman was of the view that the asset value of EMSTF should take
into account the real value of the new premises.
36. PAS/W said in response that EMSTF operated on a self-financing
principle, aiming at a target annual return of 13.5% of its asset value.
The reprovisioning of EMSD’s Sung Wong Toi workshop to the Tin Shui Wai
combined maintenance depot would be done on a square metre for a square-metre
basis. As such, the reprovisioning would be cost-neutral and would
not affect the asset value of EMSTF.
37. Mr Ronald ARCULLI opined that EMSTF should be seen to be operating
on a fair and prudent financial basis. As it was self-financing,
it should not continue to enjoy subsidies from Government in terms of provision
38. PAS/W said that the operation of EMSTF had been adhering to
the self-financing principle. He further pointed out that the reprovisioning
of EMSD Headquarters from Caroline Hill Road to Chai Wan would also be
done on a cost-neutral basis.
39. Dr TANG Siu-tong was concerned about the possible nuisance
caused by the combined maintenance depot to the neighbouring environment,
where schools and residential development were located. Referring
to the location map which was tabled at the meeting, the Project Manager
121, Architectural Services Department advised that the combined maintenance
depot was included in the outline zoning plan of Tin Shui Wai. A
preliminary environmental review to assess the potential impacts of the
proposed depot had been conducted and no problems were identified.
The project was not a designated project under the Environment Impact Assessment
Ordinance. PAS/W added that some buffer areas would be provided to
minimize any possible impact of the depot on the neighbouring schools and
residential development on the southern side. Meanwhile, vehicle ingress
and egress would be designed to minimize disturbance to residents.
Noting that the residential areas were situated both at the southern and
northern ends of the proposed depot, the Chairman stressed the need to
provide mitigation measures to minimize air and noise pollution problems
associated with the operation of the depot.
(Post meeting note: A copy of the location map was circulated to members
vide LC Paper No. CB(1)1159/98-99)
Utilization of space
40. Dr TANG Siu-tong was concerned that the depot would have a
total gross area of 54,000 square metres but only half of this area was
planned for use. The Project Director 1, Architectural Services Department
(PD1) advised that workshops required a large amount of circulation space
for lorries and trucks. Since the depot would be a multi-storey one,
it would require vehicular access to each level. Of 54,000 square
metres of gross floor area on the proposed seven-storey building, the net
usable area would be 27,000 square metres and the efficiency factor was
about 50%. This efficiency factor was about the same for all other
multi-storey workshops under construction because of the need for ramps
and circulation space.
41. The Chairman pointed out that it would cost more to build
a multi-storey depot given the need for space for vehicular access to each
level and the extra loading required for heavy vehicles. PD1 said
in response that the Administration aimed at maximizing the use of valuable
land as sites for depots were running out and it was difficult to identify
new suitable sites.
42. Mr Ronald ARCULLI said that the Administration had not clarified
in its paper the basic strategy for the reprovisioning of maintenance depot
in Hong Kong. It appeared that the strategy was to release prime
urban sites occupied by the various regional workshops and to combine services
of different works departments under one roof. However, the paper
had not explained how efficiency could be improved by centralizing the
services of works departments and how the proposed depot located in Tin
Shui Wai would better serve the various regions. Justification for
the low efficiency rate of the depot in the utilization of space and information
on a breakdown on usage and details of costs should be provided.
Mr ARCULLI said that the Administration should clarify all these issues
when submitting the funding application to the Public Works Subcommittee.
43. Summing up the discussion, the Chairman requested the Administration
to provide a supplementary paper to explain the overall strategy for the
provision of depots, the locations of maintenance depots under construction
and planning, the cost benefits of building the combined maintenance depot
in Tin Shui Wai, the utilization of its space and the environmental measures
to be provided.
(Post-meeting note: The required information was provided by the Administration
and circulated to members vide LC Paper No. CB(1)1341/98-99)
VII Any other business
44. There being no other business, the meeting ended at 12:30
Legislative Council Secretariat
5 August 1999