Heritage value 'not enough for top status'

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 26 January, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 26 January, 2008, 12:00am

The heritage value of a 77-year-old mansion in Pokfulam Road was 'insufficient' for it to be classified as a monument, the Antiquities Advisory Board ruled yesterday.

But the owners of Jessville - a rare European-style house - said they would keep the mansion even after it was classified as a grade three building.

It will likely become a clubhouse of a residential development and open to the public once a month.

Secretary for Development Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor said Antiquities and Monument Office experts found that the mansion was of some historical significance, but 'insufficient' to merit monument status. 'During the time when the government declared it a proposed monument last April, we did not have the chance to get inside the house to look at its interior,' she said.

'But as the government managed to obtain more information about the place after being allowed access, the colleagues from the Antiquities and Monuments Office found it did not deserve monument status.'

Under the present system, a building with architecture 'of some merit' is deemed a grade three building but not qualified for consideration as a possible monument.

Jessville was built in about 1931 by prominent barrister and social figure William Ngar Tse Thomas Tam. He named the mansion after his wife.

Two proposals to rezone the site occupied by Jessville were submitted to the Town Planning Board yesterday. The owners have applied to build three high-rise blocks of flats within the 6,440 square metre site, or four medium- to low-rise blocks with an extension to adjacent government land.

The proposal said the owners preferred the first option, but suggested that a 1,850 square metre area be provided as a 'preservation area' around the historic building if land was added.

'This would provide an area of protection within the new development where the existing landscape and features around the building could be clearly distinguished from the new development area,' it said.

The development would provide 102 flats and a traffic assessment report found that no noticeable impact on traffic would be created. If approved, the development is scheduled for completion in 2016.

An owners' statement said they would fund the restoration of the historic building, which would be owned by whoever bought the development.

Mrs Lam said the government did not intend to grant the extra piece of land requested for the development. 'I have expressed to them the government's intention in our last meeting with the owners, with reason being that the preservation proposal is possible within the site.'