Public to grade 1,400 sites

PUBLISHED : Friday, 20 March, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 20 March, 2009, 12:00am

Members of the public are being asked to give their own grading to more than 1,400 historic sites on a list put forward by the Antiquities Advisory Board yesterday.

In a new approach to heritage preservation, they have four months to agree or disagree with the gradings proposed by the board.

'The public can disagree with the proposed grading and they can suggest a higher grading for a building which they think has great historic or social value,' board chairman Bernard Chan said.

Apart from individual buildings, streetscapes, bridges and a war memorial are also being graded for the first time, covering seven of the sites chosen for assessment.

The 1,444 sites were selected from about 8,800 potentially historic features identified in a survey begun in the 1990s, but only 543 had been graded by 2007.

The proposals released yesterday review and in some cases alter those gradings as well as grading the remaining 901.

Gradings are proposed by the Antiquities and Monuments Office according to experts' advice and six major criteria, covering a building's historic value, architectural value, social value, rarity, authenticity and group value.

Previously ungraded sites given grade one include historic buildings and structures in Kat Hing Wai, a walled village in Yuen Long; the rickshaw parking space on Kennedy Road; Pottinger Street and Ladder Street in Central; the Cenotaph at Statue Square in Central; Ho Tung Gardens on The Peak; City Hall in Central; Old Halls at the University of Hong Kong; and the Peninsula Hotel in Tsim Sha Tsui.

Antiquities and Monuments Office executive secretary Tom Ming Kay-chuen said some of the previously graded buildings had been rated higher because their historic value had increased with time. 'But there are buildings of which the authenticity and integrity has decreased with time, these will be downgraded.'

Among those upgraded from grade two to grade one is Kom Tong Hall in Mid-Levels, site of the Sun Yat-sen Museum. They also include Haw Par Mansion in Wan Chai - which will be tendered for commercial use this year - the Tin Hau temple in Yau Ma Tei, the former Whitfield Barracks in Kowloon Park and some police stations of colonial style.

Those given a lower grading include Pineapple Pass Dam at the Shing Mun Reservoir, reduced from grade one to three, and the Tin Hau temple in Shau Kei Wan and some tenement buildings on Nam Cheong Street, Sham Shui Po, which were downgraded from grade two to three.

Board member Lee Ho-yin welcomed the new approach to engage the public, adding the new move was a step closer to international heritage preservation standards.

'It gives regard to not just building blocks but also structures which are historic and carry collective memory,' he said, pointing out the grade two Bin Mo Bridge in Kam Tin was built by a villager of the Tang clan 800 years ago to give his mother access to the farm across the river. 'That's how the bridge was named.'

Revisiting the past

Hongkongers will have an opportunity to participate in the grading process for about 1,400 historic buildings, structures and streets including ...

Built 1841-50
Ladder Street
Existing grading: None
Proposed grading: One
Ownership: Government

Built 1845
Pottinger Street
Existing grading: None
Proposed grading: One
Ownership: Government

Built 1931
Cheung Chau Theatre
Cheung Chau
Existing grading: None
Proposed grading: Two
Ownership: Private

Built 1710
Bin Mo Bridge
Yuen Long
Existing grading: None
Proposed grading: Two
Ownership: Government