Plea to value 'intangibles' in heritage reviews

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 26 February, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 26 February, 2009, 12:00am

The intangible heritage value of old buildings should be considered when the government vets proposals for revitalising historic structures, Antiquities Advisory Board members said yesterday.

The suggestion was made at the board's meeting a week after the government was criticised for rejecting a proposal from the Chinese Artists Association to turn the North Kowloon Magistracy into a base for practising Cantonese opera.

'I think the vetting criteria should be reviewed to make the most of revitalising the second batch of historic buildings later this year,' board member Greg Wong Chak-yan said. The first batch of tendering results under the heritage building revitalisation scheme was released earlier this month. 'It is certainly important to protect the physical appearance of historic buildings and to ensure applicants' financial capability, but proposals advocating the protection of intangible heritage should be seen as a strong point for the proposal.'

Mr Wong's view was echoed by board member Bernard Lim Wan-fung. 'Historic buildings have their own characteristics and they are different in terms of scale, historic value and public expectation,' Mr Lim said. 'The assessment criteria could be adjusted and varied from site to site.'

Seeking advice from the board members, Secretary for Development Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor said the government supported the idea of making heritage preservation part of the vetting scheme.

Current vetting criteria include a proposal's financial sustainability, whether an applicant is capable of preserving a building's heritage, social values and other factors such as the applicant's ability to manage the project.

The vetting committee would adopt another set of criteria when assessing proposals for the Blue House in Wan Chai - among the second batch of buildings designated for revitalisation in June, she said. Committee members would meet the residents to ensure the criteria used met their demands.

'This [Blue House] is a special case,' she said. 'The revitalisation is required to accommodate the residents currently living in the house.'

The Development Bureau will conduct commercial tendering in mid-year to revitalise two buildings - King Yin Lei Mansion and Tiger Balm Garden - which are said to have relatively high commercial value.

Meanwhile, the executive secretary of the Antiquities and Monuments Office, Tom Ming Kay-chuen, said yesterday that the roof of King Yin Lei Mansion was expected to be recovered next month.