• Sun
  • Dec 28, 2014
  • Updated: 7:12pm
CommentInsight & Opinion
LEADER

Let's get serious about heritage

PUBLISHED : Monday, 16 June, 2014, 3:03am
UPDATED : Monday, 16 June, 2014, 11:58am

A city's character is often said to be defined by the way it preserves the past. Over the years, so many heritage buildings have been knocked down that there seems little left to evoke our colourful East-meets-West history. This trend may have slowed in the wake of the Star Ferry Clock Tower and Queen's Pier demolition sagas, which forced the government to pay closer attention to buildings under threat of redevelopment. But apart from a handful of applause-winning projects, conservation remains a case of two steps forward, one step back.

An example is the government's failure to save the historic Ho Tung Gardens on The Peak, which would have cost taxpayers billions of dollars in compensation to the owner. This shows conservation is still knee-jerk rather than backed by a comprehensive regime. As the existing heritage grading system has no legal power to stop owners from redeveloping properties with heritage value, at least 18 of the 1,444 government-graded buildings have already been flattened. Another eight have been substantially altered.

Belated as it is, the two-month public consultation by the Antiquities Advisory Board brings hope of a change. Some ideas are worthy of further exploration, such as the establishment of a heritage trust. The board is right in saying that a trust will help promote public participation, foster overseas exchange and explore new funding sources through donations, membership fees, property rentals and souvenir sales. But even if the trust has generous government funding to start with, questions remain as to how much money the public is willing to pay to save a historic building from the wreckage ball. Given the majority in the built heritage list are privately owned, long-term sustainability is a key issue.

In a money-minded city, the pursuit of profit means old buildings are always under threat. While property rights must be respected, the need to preserve our past should not be swept aside. The consultation is an opportunity to engage the public in serious discussion on how to strike the right balance.

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7

This article is now closed to comments

pindarwong
Minimally, these heritage sites should be photographed and 3D Laser scanned, making public datasets, before they are demolished.
RobinDeCaro
Land related revenue is the major source of income for HKSAR and the attempts to conserve heritage are genuinely half-hearted.Even the extra and extra stamp duty policy levied on property transaction is for the long term health of the market.
It's a pity the Ho Tung Garden is redeveloped privately for profit rendering cultural heritage a oblivion.
Imposing extra premium of such development is a form of nationalization of private ownership,of which the HKSAR is unlikely to do.And what are the factors that determine the heritage value?
To the government,these buildings are may be mere lumps of concrete.
johnyuan
pin....
.
Your minimally is too precarious if HK government takes it up. I think you have in the past posted for such suggestion. If you know how to document real buildings in 3D just go ahead but without any suggestion that destruction of buildings could follow. I hope this is the last time I read something like yours. OK?
RobinDeCaro
Land related revenue is the major source of income for HKSAR and the attempts to conserve heritage are genuinely half-hearted.Even the extra and extra stamp duty policy levied on property transaction is for the long term health of the market.
It's a pity the Ho Tung Garden is redeveloped privately for profit rendering cultural heritage a oblivion.
Imposing extra premium of such development is a form of nationalization of private ownership,the
asiaseen
I suspect it is more a case of one step forward, two steps back.
DinGao
THESE we CAN and should preserve: ****sites.google.com/site/hongkongbouldertrackways/
johnyuan
I doubt any scheme so far works to protect buildings of heritage value. It is a lost battle against owner and property developers if a market for the flats from the redevelopment is assured – often in desirable location with trees around and a good sea view.
.
We need to remove the future market for the flats to disinterest the developers in buying up buildings worthy to be saved.
.
Hong Kong actually already requires premium negotiation for any property for redevelopment. What we need now is to charge the premium as high as the heritage value that should be established officially. Naturally, property market value is way below of heritage value rendering future redevelopment unsalable.
.
However the society should bear the cost of maintenance to keep the heritage buildings in perpetuity no matter who owns them. It is a tax that the public pays to preserve the historical identity of our city.
.
Now what remains is to have a good heritage organization of authority to set and execute all the standards professionally. Public participation should be invited and allowed.

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