Illegal building crackdown 'will not be derailed'
A planned crackdown on illegal structures at village homes in the New Territories beginning in April will not be derailed by the impending change of government, the development minister said.
Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, said on radio yesterday that letters would be sent in April to owners of houses that were found to have committed severe breaches of the law, to ask them to demolish the illicit constructions.
The enforcement plan, which has been months in the making, is to be executed by a 40-strong team and financed with hundreds of millions of dollars. The government said last week that the Buildings Department's budget this year would rise by HK$153 million to HK$1 billion.
A large part of that increase will go towards enforcing the law on village houses, alongside checks on subdivided flats in urban areas and mandatory building inspections.
'I feel that other people are even more anxious than me to see the start of the enforcement. The policy should not be altered completely because of personnel changes,' Lam said. Building officials were starting a second round of publicity for the crackdown, she said.
The current administration will step down in July. Chief executive hopeful Henry Tang Ying-yen has said the breaches were merely 'so-called' illegal and the issue should be solved through harmonious talks with villagers.
According to the crackdown plan, extra storeys at a village house that exceed the three-storey standard, and glass enclosures covering more than half the rooftop, for example, are seen as severe breaches that must be cleared immediately.
Lesser breaches, such as glass enclosures that cover less than half the rooftop, will be tolerated for some years as long as owners register the structures with the department. Lam said registration forms would be sent shortly to owners.
Rural leaders have staged several protests over recent months and have warned of legal challenges.
Leung Fuk-yuen, chairman of the Shap Pat Heung Rural Committee and a vocal opponent of the crackdown, said the Heung Yee Kuk would plan more demonstrations.
He maintained that houses higher than three storeys were legal because of historical reasons, and he would only support clearance of houses that posed a danger, and unusually large houses, such as those with a footprint of several thousand square feet instead of the standard 700 square feet.
The number of votes the New Territories' Heung Yee Kuk holds in the forthcoming election for chief executive