Ocean Park urged to cut height of hotel

PUBLISHED : Friday, 19 December, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 19 December, 2008, 12:00am

Planning Department suggests further changes

Ocean Park has been urged to further reduce the height of its proposed Ocean Hotel, one of three new hotels that form part of its massive expansion project.

Plans for the hotel have been criticised by planners and architects, who say it will damage the surrounding natural environment.

The theme park will seek Town Planning Board approval tomorrow for its proposal to build three hotels - Fisherman's Wharf Hotel, the Spa Hotel and Ocean Hotel - with the first two sitting on the headland and the last one at the park's entrance.

The park said last month that it would cut the height of the Ocean Hotel from 17 storeys to eight to address public concerns over its impact on the surrounding area. But the Planning Department said there was still scope to reduce the overall building height and minimise the visual impact without reducing the gross floor area.

'In terms of storeys, the reduction is about 50 per cent, but the actual reduction in absolute building height (measured from the ground floor), from about 60 metres to 40 metres, is only about 33 per cent,' the Planning Department says in a paper submitted to the board.

Sandwiched between Shouson Hill and Brick Hill, also called Nam Long Shan, the Ocean Hotel site is surrounded by medium-rise developments mixed with green and open spaces. The Hong Kong Country Club to its south is no higher than 27 metres and the residential development on Shouson Hill is low density.

The Architectural Services Department said the hotels should be visually compatible with their surroundings, while the Planning Department said the proposed Ocean Hotel was solid, formalistic and monolithic. Efforts should be made to soften its hard lines so that it could blend in better.

The Planning Department said it would not object to the proposal but it should be approved with conditions, including revision of the Ocean Hotel's height, submission of the revised visual impact assessment and a tree preservation scheme.

Carolyn Fong Wai-lyn, the co-chairman of the Southern District Sustainable Development Group, challenged the park's mitigation measures, including planting rows of trees to minimise the visual impact.

'I don't believe the graphic released by Ocean Park,' she said. 'I don't think the trees will be eight storeys high. I doubt such trees can be found in Hong Kong.'

The pressure group said the hotels were against the park's principles of conservation and education, and urged the park to move them to urban areas in Wong Chuk Hang.

Ms Fong said the park had already removed trees on the headland to carry out its expansion plans.

A park spokeswoman said work on the headland was for a new project comprising the Thrill Mountain, Rainforest and Polar Adventure attractions. 'It is just a transitional period; trees will be replanted when construction is completed,' she said.