Old Tai Po Police Station in line for eco-friendly facelift

PUBLISHED : Friday, 17 September, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 17 September, 2010, 12:00am

The Old Tai Po Police Station, a grade-one-listed heritage site, is in line for a facelift after Kadoorie Farm and Botanic Garden, a Tai Po-based organisation promoting nature conservation, won the right to carry out renovation and preservation work on the buildings and their grounds.

The plan, part of the second round of a revitalisation scheme being carried out by the Development Bureau, would see precious trees and rare birds protected and the site's buildings renovated with a grant of HK$40.95 million.

Kadoorie plans to turn the compound into a 'green hub for sustainable living', featuring a healthy-eating canteen hosting cookery classes, short residential courses on horticulture and biodiversity conservation, and a courtyard.

'It's not just the buildings we are going to conserve but also the nature around them,' said Idy Wong Lai-yin, head of the sustainable living and agriculture department at Kadoorie, while on a site visit with the media yesterday.

Wong said one of the first tasks would be to take care of three listed trees - a Chinese banyan and a camphor tree within the site and a lemon-scented gum tree next to the entrance - as well as 36 others on the site.

'Over time climbers [weeds] have grown over some of the trees making them sick or overloaded. We will get specialists to come to the rescue, conserving as many as possible,' she said.

Wong added that egrets roosting on the wooded slope north of the site, which account for about 7 per cent of the egret nests recorded in Hong Kong in 2008, would be cared for.

Noisy renovation work would be avoided during the birds' breeding season from March to July.

The compound was built in 1899 as the New Territories' first police quarters and the force's main administrative centre. Kadoorie plans to restore some of the buildings' distinct architectural features such as the verandas outside the main building and the flag pole at the entrance where a flag-raising ceremony took place to mark the official takeover by Britain of the New Territories.

Another site under the same Development Bureau revitalisation scheme, Wan Chai's Blue House, is also in line for renovation. Yesterday four residents of the house made a rare appearance to express their feelings on the changes proposed for the historic building.

Anna Luk Lai-yin, a bone-setting master running a clinic at a shop around the corner from the house, said she wanted to continue the business started there by her father-in-law more than 70 years ago, but that she would not feel comfortable with all the new visitors the renovated house would bring.

A resident living upstairs who only gave her name as Wah said her husband's family had lived in the Blue House for the past four generations. Before the second world war, her grandfather-in-law used to run free classes for neighbours teaching classical Chinese, she said. 'Moving out means living in another world,' Wah said, adding that she would help out in the kitchen in the dessert shop set to be opened up inside the house after the work.

St James' Settlement has won control of the Blue House and will make use of a HK$56.91 million grant for renovation and HK$4.17 million for its multi-service project.