Hysan Group takes town planners to court to get building restrictions eased

Causeway Bay landlord asks court to get Town Planning Board to relax restrictions

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 11 September, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 11 September, 2012, 3:11am

Developer the Hysan Group yesterday challenged the Town Planning Board in court over the board's refusal to relax building restrictions on various sites in Causeway Bay.

Hysan, a major landlord in Causeway Bay, argued in the Court of First Instance that the building restrictions amounted to micro-management and would stifle its freedom to design the buildings.

The group asked the court to quash the board's decision, made in March last year, not to relax the restrictions included in the Draft Causeway Bay Outline Zoning Plan.

The restrictions include building height limits, non-building areas and setback limits imposed to ensure good ventilation and adequate width for pedestrian walkways.

At question is the redevelopment potential of six existing buildings - Hysan Place, Lee Gardens, Lee Gardens Two, Sunning Plaza, Sunning Court and One Hysan Avenue.

Benjamin Yu SC, for the group, said the developer would not be able to make use of the full plot ratio if it had to meet the restrictions imposed.

It would mean the board had broken its assurance that the developer could build to the full level of intensity permitted by the development plan.

Yu also complained that the key board meeting in March last year was procedurally unfair as it had run from 2pm to 12am with a break of only five minutes. The marathon session followed a meeting on a separate matter that morning, he noted.

"Too much was expected from the board members to be able to digest the point and to be able to [make a determination] on the point," Yu said, referring to the group's case for relaxed restrictions.

"The decision-maker [the Town Planning Board] is affecting property rights," he added.

Jat Sew-tong SC, for the board, said the board made its judgment by taking a holistic approach - considering the characteristics of the entire district instead of focusing on building details.

"Of course, with fewer restrictions, there would be greater flexibility and freedom … but the question before my lord is whether the restrictions imposed were beyond the law," Jat said.

"It's a package [of conditions and restrictions] for the board to take into account, so it's wrong for my learned friend to focus on just one point."

The board's judgment balanced private interests with the public interest, he added.

Mr Justice Anselmo Reyes will deliver his judgment on Friday, the last working day he serves on the bench.