Swire Group

Eased height limits pave way for taller buildings in Quarry Bay

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 16 May, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 16 May, 2009, 12:00am

Taller buildings will be allowed in Quarry Bay after the Town Planning Board accepted a developer's suggestion to ease height limits on redevelopments in Taikoo Place.

The decision will benefit plans by Swire Properties, approved in the 1990s, to redevelop Somerset House, Cornwall House and Warwick House into two commercial high-rises.

The board yesterday agreed to Swire's counterproposal to relax the height limits for both high-rises to 225 metres and 195 metres.

The developer had initially wanted those buildings to be 295 metres and 160 metres high, but the Planning Department last year proposed height limits on new commercial developments in Quarry Bay ranging from 100 metres to 200 metres.

The board's decision was challenged by residents and the district council on the grounds that the relaxed restrictions would undermine the protection of ridgeline views: some 'free building zones' - the proportion of visible hilltop to building height - would be reduced from 20 per cent to just 5 per cent.

The board received about 300 objections after the Planning Department's proposal. It relaxed the rules for Taikoo Place after listening to objectors' views yesterday.

But the developer is required to reserve a 10-metre-wide, non-building area on the site of Somerset House to allow better movement of air. The board rejected Swire's request to confine the non-building area to the ground level. Swire had opposed the proposed height restrictions, under which the two high-rises could not exceed 200 metres.

The department had said the limits were meant to avoid a negative impact on the district's visual quality and to preserve views of the ridgelines of Tai Tam Country Park and Mount Parker from the vantage point at Kai Tak. It said the height limits and other requirements were based on an air ventilation study.

A spokeswoman for Swire Properties said the proposed height restrictions had affected their redevelopment projects in Taikoo Place, Sai Wan Terrace and Cityplaza.

'We were not properly consulted on the new restrictions,' the spokeswoman said. 'Taller buildings allow more open space on ground level.'

A spokeswoman for the board noted that it was a 'balanced decision' to relax the height limits as suggested by Swire, but to uphold the Planning Department's plan for a non-building area.

'Swire promised to provide an open space of 6,500 square metres for the redevelopment,' the spokeswoman said.

Eastern District councillor Andrew Chiu Ka-yin opposed easing the limits.

Mr Chiu said residents were worried that the high-rises would worsen the traffic conditions and air quality of the Taikoo Shing residential development. 'The force of the winds has intensified after the completion of One Island East,' he said. 'We felt the gusts when typhoons came.'

Wong Kam-sing, spokesman for the Institute of Architects, said flexibility in building heights could be allowed as long as the quality at the ground level was improved.

'There should be more and greener open space to allow better air ventilation if taller buildings are approved,' Mr Wong said.