Full findings on old government site withheld

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 13 June, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 13 June, 2012, 12:00am


Detailed recommendations by an expert panel which concluded that the former government headquarters 'should not be dismembered' have not been provided to heritage advisers due to meet to discuss the Central landmark's future tomorrow.

All that has been put before the Antiquities Advisory Board is a table - branded 'illogical' by one heritage activist - that lists grades ranging from three (the lowest) to one (the highest) for three now-abandoned office blocks but awards grade one status to the whole compound.

The lowest grade is given to the West Wing of the former headquarters, which the government wants to demolish and replace with a high-rise office block.

The antiquities board will meet tomorrow to confirm the grades, which are said to have been recommended by the panel - including four professionals and a heritage officer - at a closed-door meeting on May 31.

At least one member of the board has expressed surprise that the more detailed recommendations - missing from documents uploaded to the board's website for the meeting - had not been supplied.

A member of the expert panel, meanwhile, said the 'unreasonable' separate gradings were the result of a request from the government's Antiquities and Monuments Office.

A record of the May 31 meeting - obtained by the South China Morning Post - said the panel considered that one of the reasons that the buildings were significant was 'their setting within an open green space adjacent to several historic buildings'.

Citing a 2011 Unesco statement on preserving historic urban landscapes, it also says the three wings are examples of 'non-exceptional heritage elements that present in a coherent way with a relative abundance'.

'From a conservation viewpoint, therefore, the Post-1950 Former CGO Site is an integral site which should not be dismembered,' it said.

The panel also said there was a need to develop planning practices to conserve the overall setting of Government Hill - the seat of the administration from the earliest colonial days, which also includes Government House.

Architect and panel member Louis Lor Hing-hung said he had been reluctant to give scores to the three wings separately.

'All along it was a consensus among panel members that the three buildings should be graded as a whole. It was only at the request of the antiquities office that we gave scores for each block separately. It was an unreasonable practice,' Lor said.

'I hope the government respects the panel's viewpoints and conveys them to the board.'

In the past, for a building cluster, the board has either given an overall grade or a different grade for each block separately - but never both, as in the current exercise.

Lor suggested reusing the West Wing as a town hall in the ancient Roman style - as a venue for people to participate in public debate.

Antiquities Advisory Board member Ho Pui-yin said she had not seen the missing documents and questioned why such important information was not provided for the board's consideration.

Katty Law Ngar-ning, convenor of the Government Hill Concern Group, said the result was 'illogical' that the three wings had different grades that led to an overall grade one. She questioned whether it was designed to serve officials' plans to demolish the West Wing.