Prisons chief bemoans lack of HQ

PUBLISHED : Friday, 26 November, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 26 November, 2010, 12:00am

With redevelopment looming for three landmark government towers in Wan Chai, the soon-to-be-evicted Correctional Services Department is waiting to be allocated a site for a new headquarters.

It is hunting around the Kai Tak development area and Chai Wan for a site that can provide 3,000 square metres of floor area.

'The Correctional Services Department is the only one among the disciplined services without a headquarters building,' Commissioner of Correctional Services Sin Yat-kin said yesterday.

The department's head offices occupy three floors of Wanchai Tower. Several supporting divisions are spread out at the District Court, commercial buildings and prisons.

Wanchai Tower, Immigration Tower and Revenue Tower - places where generations of Hongkongers paid their taxes and received their passports - are being vacated to make way for commercial office space on the prime sites.

The 26 government agencies housed in those buildings have to move out of the central business district in line with a government study that called for more centrally located Grade A office space.

Financial Secretary John Tsang Chun-wah cited the Hong Kong 2030 study in his budget speech in 2008.

'This will free some land in the central business district for developing Grade A offices and give fresh impetus to the new districts, increasing employment opportunities there,' Tsang said at the time.

He also said it was not necessary for all government office buildings to be in core business areas.

The study said that the current supply of sites for Grade A office blocks in the central business district would be enough to meet demand until 2013.

It estimated that 28 million sq feet of additional floor area for Grade A offices in the district would be required by 2030.

The three government buildings located in Wan Chai cover about 13 hectares, providing a floor area of 1.8 million sq feet.

Surveyor Pang Shiu-kee said land premiums on the Wan Chai waterfront had increased 20 per cent compared with 2008, because of the constant shortage of land for Grade A office buildings.

'That land is located at the waterfront with sea views for buildings there, in addition to the convenient transport links,' Pang said.

The premium was about HK$12,000 per sq foot, which meant the land could provide a floor area of 2 million sq feet with a value of HK$21.6 billion, he said.

The other disciplined services - the police force, Fire Services, Government Flying Service, and Customs and Excise - have their own headquarters buildings.

The Immigration Department, too, has its own building, the Immigration Tower, which is also slated for redevelopment. Like Correctional Services, Immigration is waiting to be allocated a site for a new headquarters building.

Customs is in the process of moving into a building in North Point.

Its new customer services centre at North Point started operating on Monday, providing integrated services for the application of customs-related licences and permits.

The centre would also answer enquiries from the public and give comprehensive information on the department's work face to face, a spokesman said.