Shortened Hopewell Centre II does not need planning approval

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 06 December, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 06 December, 2008, 12:00am

The development plan of the shortened Hopewell Centre II, previously known as the Mega Tower, does not need approval from the Town Planning Board, the Development Bureau has said after legal advice.

The Planning Department also revealed in a letter to Civic Party lawmaker Tanya Chan yesterday that Hopewell had suggested turning a site on 196-206 Queen's Road East - now the QRE Plaza - into open space as part of the Mega Tower project. But it was not incorporated as a condition in the planning permit issued.

Last month Secretary for Development Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor announced that the 93-storey hotel in Wan Chai would be trimmed to just over 50 storeys. This followed years of negotiations with Hopewell Holdings. She also said the government would seek legal advice to see if the project, approved by the Town Planning Board in 1994, needed to be examined by the board again.

Responding to questions raised by Ms Chan, the Development Bureau said it was not necessary for Hopewell to seek approval again after considering the principles of the Town Planning Board Ordinance and board guidelines.

'The revised proposal will not reduce the public facilities included in the original plan and the project will be scaled down,' the bureau said in the letter. A Development Bureau spokeswoman confirmed the decision was supported by legal advice, and it would seek the views of Town Planning Board members later.

In the face of public opposition to the government's plan to change the zoning of the QRE Plaza from open space to commercial use, the director of the Planning Department, Ava Ng Tse Suk-ying, said in another letter to Ms Chan that Hopewell did mention creating an open space on the site of the plaza as part of the 1994 Mega Tower plan.

She said the board did not secure the idea as a planning condition because the site was not within the boundaries of the project.

Although the department later zoned the site as open space to reflect the developer's original intention, she said the QRE Plaza was approved in 1981, 13 years earlier than the approval of the Mega Tower project, and the approval was still effective.

'A commercial building was allowed to be built on an open space, showing the government did not gatekeep well,' Ms Chan said. She said the government should not allow the revised project to bypass the board's approval.