Urban planning

Plan for high-rises at historic site clears last hurdle, with conditions

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 03 February, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 03 February, 2007, 12:00am


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Opposition from conservationists and the reservations of land officials failed to stop the Town Planning Board from finalising a controversial plan to approve two 43-storey residential high-rises at the former police married quarters on Hollywood Road.

Instead, board members decided to address conservationists' concerns by adding a new clause to the planning brief concerning heritage preservation.

Residents and conservationists had demanded the government turn the site, which is already on the land application list for residential development, into a park and community centre, as it used to house Central School (now called Queen's College). They recently found evidence that it was also the site of Hong Kong's first Shing Wong Temple.

In pushing ahead with the development plan, the board decided to include in the planning brief a clause stipulating that the developer carefully demolish the existing buildings and prudently carry out site preparation work.

The developer will also be required to inform the Antiquities and Monuments Office if it discovers any historic features, and stop construction to allow the office time to investigate.

But Lands Department official James Merritt warned that the new clause might lead to compensation claims against the government because it could cause indefinite construction delays.

'Once we sell the land, the developer will want to push on. This is the reality. To stop them, the government will be liable to claims,' Mr Merritt said.

Board member Sylvia Yau described yesterday's decision as 'wishy-washy'. She had hoped the board would take into account changed public sentiment over heritage conservation and come up with a plan to preserve the site.

Katty Law Kar-ling, of the Central and Western Concern Group, said the decision was 'crazy'.

She said the group would continue to campaign to save the site from becoming another high-rise residential development.