Building plan may have hid C.Y. structure from view
Joyce Ng and Olga Wong
An unmarked section on the building plan of Leung Chun-ying's house on The Peak could have made it difficult to spot an illegal basement if it was already there when he bought the property 13 years ago, an experienced architect suggests.
But he also said this should not be used as an excuse for Leung to escape responsibility for having illegal structures at his home, given heightened awareness about the issue in recent years.
The architect, who declined to be named, said he only wanted to offer an explanation for the controversy, while staying out of politics.
He said that in the building plan for House 5 on 4 Peel Rise, submitted by architect Rocco Yim Sen-kee in 1991, no markings were made on the area where the illegal basement was found by the Buildings Department last week.
'Adopting today's more stringent standards, the department, before approving a plan, will require the architect to state on it whether the area was intended as a room. If yes, he will have to draw a section. If no, he will have to put down words like 'unexcavated' or 'backfilled',' he said.
'But in 1991, the department did not give high priority to guard against illegal structures and that's probably why the architect did not make the markings. The lack of markings led to a grey area for developers to exploit.'
The architect said developers of many Peak houses would dig out a basement in unmarked areas on the plan and conceal the basement door from buildings officers who inspected the site before issuing an occupation permit.
If this was the case when Leung's house was built, the lack of markings may have made it difficult for buildings officers who checked the house in 1992 to spot the basement's existence - and subsequently for Leung when he bought it in 1999, the architect said.
Rocco Yim could not be reached for comment in the past two days. The developer, Housing Development, has declined to answer media inquiries.
Despite his explanation, the architect said it was hard to believe Leung was unaware of the illegal structures because he had several chances to revisit the plans after moving in, such as when he applied to the department for permission to put a glass cover over a walkway.