Graham Street project heritage report must be made public

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 20 December, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 20 December, 2008, 12:00am

Last month, the Central and Western Concern Group asked the Development Bureau if it could inspect the heritage impact assessment of the Urban Renewal Authority's (URA) H18 Graham Street/Peel Street redevelopment project.

We were told that the URA had set up a conservation advisory panel which commissioned a heritage study 'to look into matters related to preservation elements around the project area'. However, the study did not form part of the master layout plan submission and so it was not available for public inspection.

This public document is crucial for judging the redevelopment scheme. We are highly suspicious of what actually has been done by this panel. According to a Central and Western district councillor who helped us make a direct inquiry to the URA, the URA's response was that this report had not been completed. The concern group asked to see this report as far back as September, 2007. It is unbelievable that a redevelopment project for a 100-year-old market can start without a proper heritage impact assessment.

This report must be critically inspected by the public to see if the redevelopment scheme is appropriate for such a delicate and historic market area. Members of the public have repeatedly voiced their opposition to the project which will see four high-rise towers built and historic streets destroyed.

Professional institutes have expressed their views. The Hong Kong Institute of Architects sent a statement last month to the Development Bureau and Central and Western District Council, saying the four high-rises were inappropriate for such a historic area.

The institute said existing buildings on the site should be retained as far as possible.

People opposed to this scheme have called for a more sensitive approach to urban regeneration to be adopted, but these calls have been ignored.

How can the public possibly have confidence in our government to review the urban renewal strategy which drives the current demolition madness when a redevelopment scheme which is so obviously wrong cannot be changed?

Katty Law, convenor, Central and Western Concern Group