image

Donald Tsang

Officials backtrack on plan for auditorium under school ruins

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 16 January, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 16 January, 2010, 12:00am

The government has stepped back from its suggestion that an auditorium be built underneath a site of archaeological interest in Central after locals expressed fears that the plan could destroy valuable relics.

The proposal was made in a paper released on Tuesday. But it was deleted from the paper discussed by the Town Planning Board yesterday.

In the replacement paper, the government maintained that an extra floor area of 5,000 square metres should be added to the site of the former married police quarters in Hollywood Road, which offers 15,000 square metres of floor space in two blocks for the promotion of creative industries.

But the idea of a multi-functional space in the courtyard between the two blocks, a sky bridge linking the blocks, and a 'rehearsal auditorium' with a sunken compartment underneath the courtyard were deleted. A spokeswoman for the Town Planning Board said the omission of the proposals in the new paper was to 'leave more flexibility for future planning'.

'The department agreed that it was not necessary to put forward specific design details at this stage,' she said.

These proposals, reported earlier this week, worried conservation activists who said they would destroy the foundations of the Central School, built in 1862.

Its relics lay buried until officials discovered them in an excavation after public pressure in 2007.

The government also made another change, saying that a small block, once used by the Junior Police Call, could stay if it could be renovated for a new purpose.

Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen announced the new use for the site in his policy address.

It will allow use related to advertising, antiques and crafts, architecture, art, design, digital entertainment, film and video, music, performing arts, publishing and printing, software and computing, and television and radio.

The Development Bureau is expected shortly to invite proposals from interested organisations on how to use the site.

The future operator will have to allocate space to display the relics of the Central School.

Patsy Cheng Man-wah, who leads a conservation concern group called See Network, said the retreat on the design was reasonable.

She said her group would work with the Central and Western District Council on a 'community vision statement' regarding the cultural significance of the site, which could be a reference for organisations bidding for the site. The public will be invited to express views.