Methodist Church has abused its zoning to run a commercial hotel

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 19 May, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 19 May, 2012, 12:00am


I refer to the letter by the Reverend Canon G. Howard Mellor, of Methodist International Church (MIC) Wan Chai ('Flourishing church is desperate for more space to continue its work', May 8) in reply to my letter ('Church does not practise what it preaches with development plans', May 2).

Mr Mellor is being selective in the points he addresses.

He makes no comment on the fact that facilities at the Wesley Hotel are not permitted usage under town planning regulations for sites zoned government, institution or community (GIC). While it originally operated as a home for soldiers and sailors, the Wesley has been run as a commercial hotel for many years under the management of Hang Lung Development. This is outside permitted usages. It is also highly unlikely that approval would be granted to run a hard-liquor store on a GIC site.

I have visited the two floors and basement of the Wesley that comprise the Methodist Centre and could not see much activity related to the needs of the grass roots.

There were numerous ballet and tutorial classes and a souvenir shop.

I spoke to some parents waiting for their children and was told that they pay in excess of HK$150 per lesson. These services could be offered at any commercial building in the district.

Mr Mellor says: 'Presently this flourishing congregation is desperate for more space for its work.'

Before renovation got under way, the Wesley had around 250 rooms plus restaurants.

If there is such a pressing need for additional space to provide community services, why is the church not utilising all the floor space for its designated purpose?

In addition, the rights to the upper 13 floors of the Chinese Methodist Church developed in a joint venture with New World Development will revert to the church in a few years. These floors can then be devoted to good works.

As for the statement that it 'is true that MIC is seeking to redevelop and discussions with the relevant government departments are under way', this dialogue, in the form of legal action that will cost Hong Kong taxpayers significant sums, is hardly the way the community expects our churches to interact with our government.

Of course, there is also the question as to why the Lands and Home Affairs departments have permitted open abuse of community zoning, depriving residents of genuine services for so long?

Candy Tam, Wan Chai