Size matters when it comes to heritage, as bids for Fanling Magistracy show

PUBLISHED : Friday, 18 September, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 18 September, 2009, 12:00am

A 1960s court building drew more interest yesterday from groups interested in revitalising heritage sites than a century-old cottage had the day before.

Representatives of 27 organisations toured the former Fanling Magistracy - more than double the 13 who visited the Old House in Wong Uk Village, Sha Tin, on Tuesday.

The two-storey court complex on Jockey Club Road includes a two-storey main building, an annex, a duty lawyer's office and an open space with 66 trees.

It offers a gross floor area of 1,980 square metres - the largest among the five sites being offered in the second phase of the government's heritage revitalisation scheme - and the refurbishment rules are more relaxed than at other sites.

'The internal area of the building can be repartitioned and staircases can be modified,' Antiquities and Monuments Office heritage officer Fanny Ang Bing-hun said. 'Only a few parts such as one courtroom and one cell should be preserved.'

The court building began operation in 1961 as the first of its kind in the New Territories when new legislation extended the civil jurisdiction of the then Supreme Court and District Court to rural areas where district officers and village elders had previously taken charge of cases.

The government has suggested uses - including an institution or centre for the arts, culture or creative industries, a field study centre, and an education or visitor centre - for the building, which has been proposed for heritage grade three, the lowest on the three-grade scale.

With a public cross-district cultural centre planned on a neighbouring site, the complex could also be used for arts and cultural purposes, the senior executive officer of the Commissioner for Heritage's Office, Eric Lau Wing-ho, said.

The building has been used for shooting films in recent years, including Infernal Affairs II in 2003.

It has simplified features of the neo-classical style, with columns on the facade and windows with few ornaments. It is similar to the North Kowloon Magistracy, built in the same year and awarded to the US-based Savannah College of Arts and Design in the heritage scheme's first phase.

Under the revitalisation scheme, NGOs awarded the sites will run social enterprises on short-term leases after renovation is completed with grants from the Development Bureau.