Rezoning plan for Wan Chai site rejected

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 18 December, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 18 December, 2008, 12:00am

A green group's proposal to rezone half of the Hopewell Centre II site as a green belt has not been supported by the Planning Department.

In a paper to be discussed by the Town Planning Board tomorrow, the department says retaining the present zoning as a 'comprehensive redevelopment area' would encourage the developer to provide open space. It adds that planning approval had long been granted for the proposed hotel - known as Mega Tower before it was scaled down from 93 storeys.

The director of Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation had advised that the proposed area was well-wooded and rezoning would help preserve trees.

The Conservancy Association, which made the application, said rezoning would affect only government land, which forms half the site area, and would not take away developer Hopewell Holdings' development right.

It added that the remaining private land could still be fully utilised by the developer to build a hotel of an appropriate scale.

But judging from Hopewell's master layout plan for its 55-storey tower, rezoning would necessitate design alterations.

The association said the proposed area, densely covered by shrubs and mature trees, would provide a visual corridor and readily available public open space, with no need to ask the developer to help provide man-made public spaces. Its proposal has drawn 952 supporting comments and 614 objections from the public.

Hopewell, among the objectors, said rezoning would bring uncertainty to the development and abuse the planning system to further a political agenda.

The developer said it had a good track record in urban renewal and providing public planning gains, and rezoning would delay its commitment on the hotel.

In the approved plan, the developer will provide 5,880 square metres of public open space, and will preserve and transplant healthy trees within the site.

Meanwhile, the Town Planning Board decided at a confidential meeting last Friday that the revisions of the hotel plan, including the reductions in plot ratio, building height and number of hotel rooms, were all 'Class A amendments', which do not need the board's approval because they are minor changes and have no bad planning impact.

The board said such an arrangement would streamline the approval process.

Its decision drew criticism from lawmaker Tanya Chan, who said the confidential nature of the decision-making process would prevent the public from monitoring the project.

For and against

The Conservancy Association's proposal was supported by 952 comments but drew this many objections: 614