Yet another lawmaker caught out

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 17 May, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 17 May, 2011, 12:00am


A fourth lawmaker has been found to have an illegal structure at home, but this time it was the pan-democratic camp's turn.

The Neighbourhood and Worker's Service Centre's Leung Yiu-chung admitted there was an unauthorised canopy on the roof of his building in Tak Shing Street, Yau Ma Tei. He also admitted that he had failed to respond quickly to a warning letter issued by the Buildings Department in 2008.

'The canopy had been there when I bought the flat about 10 years ago. I wasn't aware it was illegal until I received the letter,' Leung said.

'But then the management company of the building said I could wait until the wholesale repair of the block and the work would be cheaper and less disturbing. The canopy poses no immediate danger. So I just left it for a while and waited for others to clear the structures together,' he said.

Leung said the management company had recently arranged the building repairs.

Leung is the fourth lawmaker caught after Cheung Hok-ming, Chan Kam-lam and Wong Yung-kan, all from the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, were found to have unauthorised structures in their village houses.

Leung had used the canopy, covering about 300 to 400sqft of space, for drying clothes. There are other canopies owned by his neighbours.

Leung said he understood that lawmakers were expected to have higher standards of conduct. 'So I have got a contractor to quote prices today and will fix the matter as soon as possible,' he said. The clearance would cost him about HK$30,000.

A Buildings Department spokesman confirmed staff had earlier found certain illegal structures on the building's roof and had issued warning letters to the flat owners ordering a removal.

The issue of illegal building structures again drew public attention after the Ombudsman found last month that the government had 'double standards' in taking enforcement action against such structures in urban buildings and village houses. Officials were found to be more tolerant when it came to village houses.

Influential rural body the Heung Yee Kuk is coming up with a proposal to 'legitimise' what would now be considered illegal structures in village houses.

While the Heung Yee Kuk working group has claimed to have reached a consensus with the government to allow structures such as enclosed balconies and rooftop glasshouses, development secretary Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor would not comment on particular items.

Lam said negotiations were taking place and the 'legitimisation' proposal would take into account the historical background and different laws regulating village houses and urban buildings. She denied the proposal would result in a double standard unfair to urban residents.

In urban areas, a new enforcement policy was launched on April 1 to clear illegal structures even if they did not pose immediate danger to public safety, making rooftop and podiums enforcement targets. However, three particular items - supporting frames for airconditioners, clothes-drying racks and small canopies - would be exempted if owners appoint contractors to ensure their safety. The three items were tolerated because they were regarded as items that made life more convenient.