Controversial Repulse Bay hotel plan dropped

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 18 March, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 18 March, 2009, 12:00am

The government has abandoned plans to turn the Seaview Building in Repulse Bay into a hotel development and will revitalise the building, the Planning Department says in a paper to be discussed by the Town Planning Board on Friday.

The original plan - rezoning the vacant, 60-year-old building as a comprehensive development area comprising a hotel, barbecue spots and restaurants - encountered strong public opposition, with the board receiving more than 900 objections during the public consultation period, including those of the Southern District Council.

Opponents feared that the beach could be privatised by the hotel development and that traffic congestion would get worse.

The Planning Department says the government will not pursue the land disposal plan and will explore ways to reuse the Seaview Building.

The Transport Department has also agreed to study the possibility of converting part of the public car park along Beach Road into a drop-off area for coaches to ease traffic congestion.

But the study will start only after the opening of a new commercial complex on the former Lido site. The site, next to the Seaview Building, used to be a low-rise commercial area for bars and boutiques. It was later redeveloped by the Emperor Group but it has remained a construction site for the past eight years.

Paul Zimmerman, a co-founder of concern group Designing Hong Kong, welcomed the government's change of plan but urged it to draw up a holistic plan for Repulse Bay.

'I am disappointed the government has not identified a body to resolve all relevant issues in Repulse Bay.' He added the Lido site redevelopment should be expedited.

'The traffic on Beach Road is intolerable. It affects our quality of living,' he said, referring to the disturbances caused by idling coaches and double parking along the road.

The Planning Department said some proposals to revitalise Repulse Bay- including the possibility of offering a longer lease term for the Seaview Building and upgrading adjoining public buildings managed by the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department - fell outside the board's purview and had been referred to government departments.

Southern District Council member Ronald Chan Ngok-pang said he hoped the board would accept the Planning Department's advice and reject the hotel plan.

He said at least three companies had expressed interest in running the building and turning it into a beach club and dining facilities.