Bernard Chan fears about-turn on west wing

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 06 November, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 17 December, 2012, 6:13pm

The chairman of the Antiquities Advisory Board, Bernard Chan, has warned the government that it will send a bad message if it scraps the west wing redevelopment plan in response to public lobbying.

Chan's comment came yesterday as a source close to the government said the administration was now keen to spare the wing at the old government headquarters in Central from the wrecking ball.

Officials also found it likely that the building would be given the highest historic grading in a board meeting next month, the source said. Members of the Antiquities Board are expected to give a final rating in the meeting after the initial grade-two rating was opened for two-month public consultation in June.

However, the Development Bureau said it had not changed the redevelopment plan.

"I'm not surprised if most of the public views submitted to the government are asking for conservation. You won't express your opinion if you don't care about the building," Chan said, "It is likely that the building could be given the highest rating … because of the public's views."

But Chan also warned: "It would be unhealthy if the government gives in completely. We need a compromise."

Chan said that if the building were to be preserved, "certain modifications or extensions should be allowed".

Under the government's plan announced earlier this year, the west wing - which is more than 50 years old - will be redeveloped into a 32-storey office tower.

After the announcement, advisory board members in June voted on whether to give the west wing a grade of one, which calls for complete preservation, or two, which calls for "selective preservation". Chan cast a deciding vote for the latter after 16 members were evenly split.

A grade-two building is not generally safe from demolition, while a grade-one listing may be protected if it is then declared a monument.

Amid intense criticism for their apparent stance favouring the government, Chan and three board members resigned. The four eventually agreed to return to their posts, but will abstain from voting in the next meeting.

A spokeswoman for the Antiquities and Monuments Office said it had received more than 280 written submissions and over 4,500 signatures during the public consultation.