Criticised for moving too slowly against illegal structures on village homes in the New Territories, the Buildings Department yesterday appealed to another branch of the government for help in identifying hot spots of illicit construction.
The Buildings Department drew scathing criticism for saying on Monday that it would take more than a decade to clear dangerous illegal structures in rural parts of the New Territories, as it needed time to survey and map their locations.
Critics pointed out the delay was unnecessary because that information had already been collected by the Rating and Valuation Department. In response, the Buildings Department yesterday contacted Rating and Valuation officials to start setting priorities for the crackdown.
Further, Secretary for Development Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor - speaking at a Legislative Council meeting - pledged to start the crackdown in April next year.
The Post reported yesterday that the location of illegal structures is recorded by the Rating and Valuation Department during its annual evaluation of rates and government rents.
Lawmakers have worried that the crackdown will not begin within the tenure of the outgoing government.
Lam said the Buildings Department had started an initial discussion with the Rating and Valuation Department: 'I believe the information would be useful [to enforcement]. We won't let go anything that helps as the enforcement is really a daunting task.'
She added that the data-sharing between the two departments should not breach the law that protects personal data and privacy.
The Buildings Department's director, Au Choi-kai, said the records would save them some time as they show which villages have serious infringements.
'We still need to collect more information, like the size and exact location of the structures,' he said. 'But at least we will know where to start.'
Au said the department would commission a consultant to locate the hot spots in over 600 villages starting in April, but he did not say how long the survey would take.
'We won't wait until the survey is completed. We will issue removal orders to owners once they are confirmed to have added illegal structures on their houses,' he added.
In response to lawmakers' concerns, Lam pledged that the crackdown would begin during the tenure of the current government.