Building Authority defends altered plan rejection

PUBLISHED : Monday, 05 November, 2012, 4:16pm
UPDATED : Monday, 05 November, 2012, 4:47pm

The Building Authority has the right to revoke part of a building permit – granting a developer extra building area – when the circumstances that justify it change, the authority told a judicial review today.

Arguing in the Court of First Instance, the authority’s lawyers were defending its decision in 2009 to reject a building plan, from Long Winner Development, that it had accepted two years earlier under different circumstances.

They were appealing against a tribunal ruling that said the authority had erred when it rejected the plan.

The case stems from an agreement in 2007 between the authority and the developer. It granted the developer permission to build a larger building and a higher plot ratio – for a 31-storey residential building near Pottinger Street – if the developer allowed a public walkway, 4.5 metres wide, to run through the ground level.

The walkway was then considered “essential” because pedestrian traffic was expected to increase significantly when the proposed Central station was built for the new Sha Tin-Central Link.

But when the new railway station was eventually relocated to Admiralty, the Transport Department concluded that the walkway only needed to be 2.5 metres wide and that it was “desirable” rather than “essential”.

The change in the need for the walkway led the Building Authority to reject the building plan in 2009.

The developer appealed that decision to a tribunal, which by majority decision reversed the authority’s decision.

In Monday’s judicial review hearing, Andison Chow SC, for the authority, said the granting of such a building permit was “purely” in the hands of the authority, and it was open to the authority to revoke the permit when conditions changed.

But Benjamin Yu SC, for the developer, said the authority could not back away from its promise “in the middle of the game”. The developer had proceeded with the project on the basis of the permission for the extra building area, and had completed piling at the site.

The authority is asking the court to quash the tribunal’s decision or send the case back to the tribunal for reconsideration.

The case continues before Mr Justice Johnson Lam Man-hon.