I REFER to Ms Ursula Wingate's letter to the South China Morning Post, on December 28, regarding the noise from the Hongkong Stadium construction activities at night.
As Ms Wingate points out, the contractor has obtained a Construction Noise Permit (CNP) which specified that only one vibratory roller, two tower cranes and two bar benders and cutters would be used up to 11 pm.
Normally, a CNP will be issued under the Noise Control Ordinance (NCO) only if the noise generated from the powered mechanical equipment (PME) proposed to be used was assessed to be within the strict statutory acceptable limit.
This is the case for the present permit.
However, no work is permitted after 11 pm.
Therefore, it is clear from Ms Wingate's description that the contractors committed an offence when they continued to work past 11 pm.
In this particular case, the legislation would have been effective in providing some peace and quiet after 11 pm had the contractors been law abiding.
Regarding the checking of contractors, although because of staff shortages we cannot afford to regularly inspect all construction sites, we do operate a special surveillance programme to check on contractors that are known to us to have attracted repeated/multiple complaints.
In the present case, after Ms Wingate had first lodged a complaint with this department in August, we warned the contractors, in writing, and subsequently learnt from Ms Wingate that the situation had improved.
Therefore this contractor was not included in our surveillance programme.
As a result of Ms Wingate's latest complaint, we have included this contractor in our surveillance programme.
If we establish any breach of the permit conditions during our investigations, we shall take immediate legal action without further warning.
For contractors who simply treat a fine arising from an offence as part of the overhead, it will be the heftiness of the fine that would deter them. Whilst we have succeeded in 12 prosecutions in the past three months, it will have an effect only when the courts begin to hand down closer to the maximum of HK$100,000.
Having said that, we recognise that whilst the current CNP system can limit the use of power mechanical equipment (PME) during the restricted hours (that is, 7 pm to 7 am on any day and any time on general holidays including Sundays) to reduce noise disturbance, such restricted construction work would still cause disturbance under some circumstances.
Therefore, we are currently drafting legislation that would essentially prohibit night time and holiday works (other than emergency and absolutely essential work such as the repair of a burst pipe or the maintenance of railway tracks) in areas where suchworks would likely cause annoyance to the neighbourhood.
We hope that the unequivocal nature of this prohibition will provide a longer period of peace and quiet, will ease enforcement, and consequently will minimise the attractiveness of taking advantage of the current permit enforcement practice by operating equipment either not covered in the permit or outside the permitted hours. The legislation should be ready by early next year.
Finally, we would like to thank Ms Wingate for her kind words about our staff and her civic-minded reports of these incidents.
RAYMOND CHAN Ag. Assistant Director (Air and Noise) Environmental Protection Department