Owner scales down size of development beside Jessville

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 22 April, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 22 April, 2009, 12:00am

An amended proposal for the historic Pok Fu Lam mansion Jessville that would preserve the mansion while scaling down an adjacent development has won support from the government and conservationists.

The owners of the 77-year-old, grade-three listed building put the trimmed proposal to the Town Planning Board yesterday after months of negotiations with the government.

Under the scheme, two residential towers would be built instead of three or four in earlier proposals, and the mansion would become a clubhouse, parts of which would be open to the public at least one day a month.

The Development Bureau said it welcomed the proposal, which looked as though it would represent 'a proper balance' between conservation and respect for private development rights, while reducing traffic and the visual impact on the area.

Conservancy Association campaign manager Peter Li Siu-man said the plan was acceptable, although off-site compensation for development rights - as in the case of the King Yin Lei mansion in Stubbs Road - would have been better.

Under the proposal, the two residential blocks of 17 and 21 storeys would be built on one side instead of both sides of the mansion to avoid dwarfing it. A swimming pool would be added and a room set aside in Jessville to show the history of magistrate Thomas Tam, for whom it was built.

The owners asked the board to exclude the mansion in calculating the site coverage of the development. This meant the footprint of the two towers would remain at no more than 15 per cent of the site, as required by the Planning Department. The historic mansion itself has a site coverage of 11 per cent.

The board is scheduled to discuss the proposal in early June.

Negotiations over the mansion's future have been going on since 2007 when it was declared a proposed monument, then downgraded to grade three.

The current proposal is less dense than four options the owners put forward last year, which were deemed unsatisfactory by the government. One past option would have added three blocks ranging from 13 to 27 storeys surrounding the mansion.

Earlier this year, the unidentified owners warned through a representative that if talks failed they would not rule out demolishing Jessville.

'There is no compulsion for the owner to retain the heritage building, but the government's new heritage policy provides an opportunity where conservation can be achieved in relation to the provision of new residential development on the site,' the owner's planner, Ian Brownlee, said in the latest submission.