• Thu
  • Dec 25, 2014
  • Updated: 6:24pm
My Take
PUBLISHED : Thursday, 26 September, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 26 September, 2013, 12:13am

Planners hardly inspire confidence

Here's a political puzzle I don't have the answer to. People are mad at Leung Chun-ying, our chief executive. Many also object to a plan to convert a century-old heritage mansion into a boutique hotel. Now, why haven't they connected the dots?

The director of the company that owns the site and is behind the hotel plan is Yau Tang-tit, brother of Chief Executive Office director Edward Yau Tang-wah, who is also the former - and I may add, highly mediocre - environment bureau chief. That does not seem to have raised too many eyebrows. We are sure Leung and Yau never took a personal interest in the project. But given the membership of the Town Planning Board, the project has had a remarkably easy time getting approval this month. This is despite vocal objections from the Central and Western District Council and more than 150 objections raised with the board.

Let's see who sits on the board. The Permanent Secretary for Development is the chairman. Other government members include: the Director of Planning; Deputy Secretary Transport and Housing; Director of Home Affairs; Director of Environmental Protection, which is under the Environment Bureau; Director of Lands; and Deputy Director of Planning. These are backed by alternate members who are also senior government officials. The Chief Executive appointed most of the other non-government members.

Given their membership, it's little wonder they rarely cast a critical eye over most projects, however controversial. The surroundings near the house on Lugard Road have an open view of Victoria Harbour, so many visitors and hikers go there on weekends and holidays. The neighbours are worried that the narrow road would not be able to accommodate more traffic if the hotel is built.

The board has praised the owner for taking the initiative to protect the heritage mansion, which has grade-two historic status. After all, a board spokesman said, "An owner could tear it down any time." Well, how nice of them! Perhaps the developer should get an award, not just the green light.

The board is key to making our city world-class and liveable. But often its decisions do little to inspire confidence.


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This article is now closed to comments

Why do the writers on these pages still evoke "world class" when referring to HK?
It's pretty obvious that has gone down the drain already and with the actions of greedy, corrupt government officials that seem to be more mainland in thinking and actions these days, the people of HK are doomed.
Edward Yau is not just highly mediocre, he is totally incompetent and ethically questionable, but so is Hong Kong's entire planning regulatory framework.
Town Planning Board is colluding with the property developers and is complicit in the wilful destruction of large areas inside our Country Parks.
Dig deeper and find the real dirt, Alex.
Indeed. But why would they not act like the kleptocrats they are? In this semi-democratic, semi-authoritarian political system that Mr Lo supports so vocally every other day, they can. For they know that at the next electoral moment, the only key thing is to gain support from a 1,500 strong committee in which their fellow cronies hold an easy majority. Popular support is an afterthought with some bread (HKD 6k hand-outs) and circuses (West Kowloon Budgetary Disaster District) thrown in.

The public won't be given much of a choice anyway, so why care? Party discipline is absent too, since there is only one party with a realistic chance of getting into power, and they have made an art out of using that power to enrich themselves.

The answer to Mr Lo's puzzle is simple: it's the system, stupid.

By the way, we knew all of this weeks ago. And yet, Mr Lo went to have dinner with these 'gentlemen.' At best, this makes him a hypocrite, at worst, a collaborative pawn in their game.
good piece alex. this is the kind of reporting we value. your best piece in a while.
John Adams
Mr Lo : Please let me be the first to fully endorse your excellent op-ed on this controversial subject.
Well spoken Sir !
It's a very silly subject : preserving an old house (exterior only), which house is invisible except to everyone unless they climb the opposite High West very steep hill, thus the aesthetic/ heritage value is nil, vs the interests of those many people, both rich and poor early morning walkers, who don't want to confront any more vehicles than necessary - electric or otherwise. Reasonable case : yes/ no?
Yes! Obvious decision against the developer.
So why has the TPB over-ridden the opinions of 151/158 submissions against the proposal unless it's yet another awful case of collusion between private interests and the government, all of which make us all sick to death..
This silly little case is evidence that the collusion has not stopped.
And indeed it will probably never stop.
Edward Lau deserves to be hung, drawn and quartered for his pathetic performance as effective - NON- Secretary of Environment under D. Tsang.
If now his brother gets away with this idiocy it proves that the rot has set in as much in HK as north of the border.
CY: If you and/or your staff read this - treat it as a test case of collusion vs commonsense and common interest .
True in principle, but it becomes a different ballgame if you have them pay for your dinner. Furthermore, this was an official government dinner, with the sole purpose of giving CY & Co's pre-public (ie, private backdoor) fig leaf consultation about the 2017 electoral reform a whiff of legitimacy.
Everyday Tao is not Tao -- Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching.
Looks like every official department and authority in Hong Kong that should bear a task to provide a service to the public according to its mission statement has eventually existed only as a representative for some private interests. At least from their performance I receive such perception.
I am no friend with the Town Planning Board as long as I can remember.
Collusion is at work right in front our eyes, The Town Planning Board works more like a power broker to achieve profit (stealing money) for friends and connected at the expanse of the general public. So,must Hong Kong abide what comes out of the Board? I suggest first use the court halting the hotel project. Second, start reform the Board so decision must weight in opposite view as well.
Rule of law, Hong Kong style? Every law is good and just law?
It did not say Mr Lo was complicit in government / private sector collusion.

I said he is a hypocrite. Talk is cheap; actions speak louder. If Mr Lo finds the CE and his appointees unethical, then why accept their dinner invitation?

Or, and this is the worst case scenario, is he just bolstering their legitimacy by mixing a little bit of soft-edged criticism on a relatively minor project (the hotel) with his overall rather staunch almost daily defence of the status quo?
John Adams
Why does having dinner with CY make Alex Lo complicit with government / private sector collusion ?!
But I agree that the system is stupid and that the TPB is just a lap dog of the property cartel




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