West wing grading 'not final'
The head of the Antiquities Advisory Board, who cast a deciding vote on the heritage rating of a former government building that is slated for demolition, says the decision has yet to be confirmed.
'This is not final,' said board chairman Bernard Chan, who voted for a grade two rating for the west wing of the former government headquarters when the voting was tied between grades one and two.
'We've discussed the direction and we will hold a public consultation on the grading,' Chan said yesterday. 'After the consultation, we will have a meeting to confirm the grading.' Holding a public consultation on a grading is unusual.
Before Chan's decision on Thursday, eight members had opted for grade one - the highest of three grades - while eight wanted grade two and three voted for grade three.
A grade-two building is not generally safe from demolition; only declared monuments have that.
On Thursday, the Development Bureau said demolition of the west wing would proceed and a 26-floor office tower for NGOs and a 7,600 square metre public leisure area would be built on the site.
Chan backed the plan but said the new building should retain some of the style of the 1959 west wing. 'It isn't necessary for the building to be completely new,' he said.
On RTHK yesterday Secretary for Development Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor said the west wing decision was government policy. 'It is neither my decision nor the Development Bureau's decision,' she said.
The bureau has proposed that the government retain ownership of the site and the building. A build-operate-transfer partnership with the private sector would be used, with the developer operating the tower for a period before handing it back.
'The building has market value,' Lam said. 'If we choose to build it ourselves, it will affect other public construction projects that are waiting for government funds.'
Pressure groups criticised Chan over the wing's grade two rating.
The Government Hill Concern Group, an alliance of 21 conservation and green groups, submitted a proposal to the Town Planning Board in February last year to rezone the while area as a 'heritage precinct' and keep it as a site for government, institutional or community use.
But the proposal still has not been processed by the board.
A Town Planning Board member said of the rating: 'I respect the decision made by the Antiquities Advisory Board. The building is not highly functional in use or spectacular in appearance.'
Another board member, Professor Eddie Hui Chi-man, of Polytechnic University's department of building and real estate, said the board did not have a stance on whether the building should be demolished.