Light-pollution complaints spread in Tsim Sha Tsui
Cheung Chi-fai and Ng Kang-chung
A light-pollution protest lodged by residents of The Masterpiece has set off a new round of complaints from neighbours against overly bright buildings and shops in Tsim Sha Tsui - including The Masterpiece itself.
The original complaint targeted a three-storey LED advertising sign atop The One building. Now residents are complaining about a flashing ground-floor wall outside the fashion chain store Chocoolate.
Shopping malls iSquare and Mira are also being targeted by nearby residents concerned that the district's light pollution is running out of control.
Derek Wong, a businessman who lives in Victoria Towers adjacent to Kowloon Park, said he named several buildings in the district - including The Masterpiece, Mira, The One and iSquare - in a complaint to the Environmental Protection Department. 'It is getting out of control,' he said, and he fears developers are about to begin a display lighting 'race'.
Wong said he has never considered moving out of Tsim Sha Tsui. He wants owners to wake up to the fact that their lighting designs are distasteful and unpleasant, and to dim their lights voluntarily. The managements of iSquare and Mira were unavailable to comment yesterday.
Longtime Tsim Sha Tsui resident Mary Melville said she found it 'laughable' when the discomfort of The Masterpiece owners made news headlines, because the glaring strips on the apartment block itself were another source of light pollution.
'These bright white glaring strips can be seen as far away as Mui Wo, and many Tsim Sha Tsui people object,' she said. 'We did manage to get them switched off at 11pm via complaints to the Urban Renewal Authority. Although I do not face The Masterpiece, its lights are reflected from the mirror wall of The One.'
Owners of The Masterpiece have threatened to take The One to court for the light nuisance which, they say, has reduced their property values.
Facing a row of residential blocks across the street, the exterior of the fashion chain Chocoolate's store in Granville Road is decorated with a 'chocolate wall' of black and white flashing lights to display its corporate logo.
At least two complaints are known to have been lodged with the chain and the government by residents who live opposite the mall. One person shot a video from his residence and sent it to a green group to make the case.
'The chocolate wall is definitely in bad taste. Who wants to walk under a wall of flashing lights? It is a terrible experience,' said one Tsim Sha Tsui resident who found the lights very disturbing.
Friends of the Earth said they filed a complaint with the Environmental Protection and Transport departments last week on behalf of a resident of a building opposite the Chocoolate wall, but who did not want to be identified.
Chocoolate is a brand operated by the listed company I.T. The company was unavailable to comment.
Melville said she had also filed a complaint with various government departments against the fashion chain's lights, which she said sometimes caused a halo effect in her eyes. 'It is dangerous to have flashing lights around a blind corner,' she said. 'They could trigger an epileptic seizure, or something similar, in drivers with certain conditions. They could also blind them.'
Melville said many living in the district faced similar light pollution and wanted to help each other.
'I stood outside The One during its opening parties, with a sign saying '24/7 Noise and Light Pollution',' she said. 'When I was protesting one day one of the members of the Victoria Towers owners incorporation came up to me and asked if we could co-operate, as their building has problems with lights on the back wall,' she said. She fears that The One might also turn a 12-storey poster, lit with spotlights, into a giant LED screen.
Chiu Mung-ngor, the owner of a in The Masterpiece who has escalated her fight against light pollution from The One, said she understood the concerns of other Tsim Sha Tsui residents.
'It is fine with me if the lights on The Masterpiece are turned off. The residence is the tallest in the district and most spectacular, even if there are no decoration lights on it,' she said. 'But let's stay focused in the fight against The One first. Once The One gives in, changes in other buildings, including The Masterpiece, will come naturally as they will be under pressure to do the same thing.'
The Environmental Protection Department said yesterday that The One had turned down the brightness of its signboard to reduce the public nuisance. The department said it had raised the issue with The One's management company after receiving eight complaints about light pollution. New World Development, the biggest landlord at The Masterpiece, said it has relayed complaints to the management company of The One.