Land swap offer to save historic Peak villa
The owner of Ho Tung Gardens will be offered land in exchange for the property to allow preservation of the site, which will be declared a historic monument.
A person close to negotiations between the government and owner Ho Min-kwan, granddaughter of late tycoon Sir Robert Hotung, said a site adjacent to the gardens at 75 Peak Road, which is zoned as green belt, will be offered on Monday to Ho, who wants to redevelop the villa.
'The site shares similar views and land value as the gardens. It is not certain whether Ho will accept the proposal but the government will continue negotiations with her,' the source said.
Secretary for development Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor will ask the Antiquities Advisory Board to endorse the monument declaration and the land swap.
'It is beyond doubt that Ho Tung Gardens has reached the high threshold of heritage value for monument declaration,' the Antiquities and Monuments Office said in a paper issued to the advisory board yesterday.
Two consultancy reports commissioned by the office recognised the high architectural and historical values of the site.
It is unclear if the owner will accept the proposal. Ho Min-kwan's lawyers have emphasised the owner's private property rights.
In January, the minister declared the property a provisional monument after knowing that Ho planned to demolish it and build about 11 three- or four-storey residential blocks.
Surveyors estimated its redevelopment value at HK$3 billion.
The provisional monument status, which expires next January, was to buy time for officials to negotiate with the owner.
Ho made a counter-offer to keep the Chinese landscaped garden while knocking down the mansion but the antiquities advisers were not satisfied with that idea.
The garden was built by Jardines' comprador Robert Hotung for his second wife, Clara, in 1927.
The government saved King Yin Lei, a mansion in the Chinese Renaissance style in Stubbs Road, by offering an adjacent site to the owner in exchange.