6 years to enforce change at 1 house

PUBLISHED : Monday, 27 June, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 27 June, 2011, 12:00am


Legal enforcement against the construction of village houses above three levels in the New Territories has seldom been successful. However, a rare instance of the government's success has highlighted the onerous hurdles that officials face, as they seek to enforce the law amid a looming crackdown.

Two prosecutions in six years were what it took for a six-storey village house in Lam Hau Tsuen, Yuen Long, to be revised by the owners to the legal three-storey height.

'The owners wanted to keep the house and negotiated with the government,' village representative Cheung Kam-fook said. 'But it didn't work and they were forced to remove the upper storeys.'

Certainly, the lengthy period of time that officials took to enforce the law successfully in this instance, raise questions about the effectiveness of the government's proposal to crack down on illegal rural housing structures. The Legislative Council will be discussing the controversial proposal tomorrow.

The 10,000 sq ft house, built in 2002, immediately became the 300-year-old village's landmark, as it was the highest structure and was four times larger than the other three-storey houses nearby. Two brothers and their uncle built the house for their families.

After being twice prosecuted by the Buildings Department for failing to obtain approval for deviating from the legal property format for village houses, the owners subsequently tore down the offending upper three storeys between one and two years ago. The legal property format for village houses is a maximum height of three storeys with a floor size of 700 sq ft per storey.

In addition, part of the Lam Hau Tsuen house still occupies government land. The owners were unavailable for comment last week. The house has since been subdivided and has been rented to at least two families, who said that they were newcomers and had moved in only a few months ago. The village chief refused to reveal details about the case.