Heritage advisers oppose sell-off

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 23 November, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 23 November, 2011, 12:00am


At least a third of the government heritage advisory board, including all its historians, say they will object to the redevelopment of Government Hill at their meeting today.

They say a proper historic appraisal and a higher grading are necessary to preserve the integrity of the hill, a symbol of colonial history.

Eight of the 23 Antiquities Advisory Board (AAB) members contacted by the South China Morning Post yesterday - including the five historians Joseph Ting Sun-pao, Ho Pui-yin, Stephanie Chung Po-yin, Ko Tim-keung and Lau Chi-pang - said they disagreed with officials' proposal to demolish the 1950s west wing of the government headquarters, now relocated to Tamar in Admiralty, to build a commercial tower.

Chung said the board should view the hill as an organic whole when considering a grade, since it adopted the same approach in declaring The Peak's Ho Tung Gardens as a monument last month, recognising the integral landscape value of the gardens and the mansion.

'We should not see the west wing as an individual building but part of the colonial symbol. To grade it separately would be double standards and it would not be fair to Ho Tung's descendents,' Chung said.

Ting and Lau, unable to attend the meeting due to other engagements, said they were also against redevelopment as there were few integral colonial places like Government Hill.

The other three against redevelopment are architectural conservationists Lee Ho-yin and Tony Lam Chung-wai, and Lilian Law Suk-kwan, executive director of the Boys' and Girls' Clubs Association.

Apart from board chairman Bernard Chan, who stays neutral to steer the meeting, four members said they had not made a decision and would look to the government for more information about the historic aspect.

Of the nine others who could not be reached for comment, Ng Cho-nam last week said a proper historic appraisal should be conducted. Janet Pau Heng-ting declined to comment.

Chan said he would open the meeting to discuss whether a grading should be given, and if so, the job would be passed to an expert panel.

'To give a grade for an area instead of a single building is something new to the AAB,' he said. 'We would have to work out the criteria.'

The government will soon submit a rezoning application for the redevelopment to the Town Planning Board. It planned to launch the tender for land sale by 2013.

Grades one to three, unlike monument status, do not confer statutory protection. But officials are under greater pressure to preserve grade-one sites, which are seen as potential monuments.

Speaking in the Legislative Council yesterday, Secretary for Development Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor said the proposed scheme for a 32-storey commercial tower, now revised without a mega-shopping mall, had addressed public concerns.

'I think we need a balance [between conservation and development] this time,' she said.