Removal of unwanted noise barriers cost taxpayers $42m

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 27 November, 2003, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 27 November, 2003, 12:00am

The removal of unwanted and unsightly noise barriers from the Tolo Highway cost taxpayers $42 million, the audit report revealed.

It said the dismantling of the controversial screens, which came after objections from residents, highlighted the problem of pushing ahead with such works when it had not been established whether they were actually required.

The report said dismantling the barriers - which were put up to shield residential developments in Pak Shek Kok and Tai Po - cost the government $13 million and $29 million respectively.

Residents said they wanted the barriers removed because they blocked their sea views.

The report said of the Pak Shek Kok barriers: 'This episode has highlighted the risk of procuring noise mitigation measures, such as noise barriers, for screening off traffic noise for undeveloped land, the uses of which may be subject to changes.'

The barriers were required by the Territory Development Department in 1997 under the Tolo Highway widening project. But the Town Planning Board called for the barriers' removal, in light of public complaints.

In the case of the Tai Po barriers, the report revealed that the Highways Department had decided to build them simply because it did not want to wait the eight months which it would take to alter the environmental permit requiring their construction.

To prevent a similar incident, the report said: 'The secretary for the environment, transport and works should require all works departments to allow sufficient time in the implementation plans of works contracts so that the relevant statutory requirements, such those relating to a variation of the environmental plan conditions, can be complied with.'

The report also highlighted the government's failure to ask developers of private residential developments in Ma On Shan to shoulder the $40 million cost of installing noise barriers. It said this was not 'consistent with established public finance policies'.