Residents decry permits that allow building noise

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 24 April, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 24 April, 2011, 12:00am


When is a noise not a noise? When it's not covered by the law. At least, that's the contention of some residents in Mid-Levels, who say the government's definition of construction noise has left them having to put up with the clatter of building work from 7am to midnight seven days a week.

Companies building in Seymour Road have obtained a construction noise permit, which is granted if a noise assessment by the Environmental Protection Agency is passed. For a built-up area like Mid-Levels, the limit is 65 decibels from 7pm to 11pm, and 50 decibels 11pm to 7am.

'If building sites do not exceed these levels they will be granted the permit because the noise levels will not cause any nuisance,' senior agency officer Lau See-hon said.

In theory, such levels would not be a nuisance as 65 decibels is equivalent to the sound of a cash register and 50 to that of a quiet radio. But the permit only considers the noise of powered mechanical equipment and ignores the extra noise made by workers during the usually restricted hours of 7pm-7am and Sundays.

One of the sites granted a permit is Wing Tai Properties' development in Seymour Road, where for two years work has gone from 7am until 11pm.

'It's like living in a war zone,' said Elizabeth Wilson, who lives in Fortune Gardens, an upscale block beside the site. 'There is dust and debris everywhere, and I have not been able to sleep past seven when they start, even if I wear earplugs.'

The machine on the site covered by the permit is a hoist that transports building material up and down the 43-storey block, due to be finished at the end of the year.

'The hoist itself is quiet and is not the problem,' Wilson said. 'It's the workers who use the hoist who arrive at 7am, half an hour before it starts, who slam things around. This noise is not considered in the permit.'

After Wilson wrote a complaint to the agency, an enforcer was sent to the site. 'We found that there was no violation of the permit,' Lau said. Asked if it would take action over residents' complaints, a spokesman for the developer said: 'Neither Wing Tai Properties nor the contractor of Seymour has received any complaint regarding the construction at Seymour, which has been carried out in compliance with ... permits.'

Wilson said she had little hope that anything would change before construction was finished - but 'why can't we have peace and quiet until 8am? Is that too much to ask?'

She is not the only resident in Mid-Levels whose patience is wearing thin. Law Ngar-ning, who has lived in Caine Road for 40 years, said: 'The vibration noise is everywhere. It's becoming unlivable because of the noise and overdevelopment. Seeing the sun is starting to be a luxury.'

For David Lamb, who lives on Tregunter Path, even breathing has become a luxury. 'The trucks used to transport building materials have caused so many fumes that if you sit in the reception area of my apartment or in our outside playground, you feel like you're chained to an exhaust pipe,' he said.