Hong Kong can preserve heritage sites without compromising on its housing needs

With planning, there is no need to fear for Hollywood Road temple near which charity group wants to redevelop school into a high-rise to house young people

PUBLISHED : Friday, 01 April, 2016, 2:26am
UPDATED : Friday, 01 April, 2016, 2:26am

For a small place like Hong Kong, urban planning and redevelopment pose major challenges. Our heavily built-up city centre means we don’t have the luxury of planning everything from scratch. The result is often an ensemble of buildings in different styles. Their coexistence may not be aesthetically pleasing, but they are the ingredients that make our cityscape so special and unique.

Before the Town Planning Board now is a redevelopment project. The Tung Wah Group of Hospitals is applying to lift the height restriction to turn a vacant school into a 21-storey tower with 302 bed spaces for young people. But its location, right next to a 169-year-old Chinese temple on Hollywood Road, has drawn the ire of heritage conservationists.

The temple, with a traditional green ceramic-tiled roof and balustrade walls, is already flanked by modern high-rise residential blocks. If the artist’s impression is any guide, it will be further dwarfed by the new youth hostel. Those fighting the project are worried that the temple, which is just two metres away, would not withstand the piling and construction works.

Valid as they are, the concerns over the structural integrity of the temple can be addressed through mitigation. It is incumbent upon the charity group to convince town planners and monument experts that the construction would not cause damage to the temple.

The redevelopment project is in response to the government’s drive to provide more units to suit the city’s growing housing needs. While its height and appearance may not go well with the surroundings, it can help address the housing needs for hundreds of young people.

That housing should take priority is an inevitable trend in our society. The sad reality is that every inch of space in a redevelopment project is an opportunity we cannot afford to miss. What’s important is that all necessary steps are taken to mitigate against any adverse impact.