Councillors call for stop to Peak hotel development

Traffic concerns coupled with safety fears for hikers make plans for Lugard Road mansion unsound say lawmakers and ex-resident agrees

PUBLISHED : Friday, 02 August, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 02 August, 2013, 3:51am

Fourteen district councillors have petitioned the Town Planning Board to stop a developer from transforming a 97-year-old house on The Peak into a hotel.

The councillors cited traffic concerns on the single-lane road leading to the house, and the visual and environmental impacts of the transformation on the area. The public can comment on developer Crown Empire's application by today at the latest, and the board will discuss the matter on August 16.

Central and Western District councillor Joseph Chan Ho-lim, of the Liberal Party, said a hotel would put 80 to 100 more cars on the road per day, but the lane was not built for heavy traffic.

"The road is also part of a very popular hiking trail," Chan said. "Every day thousands of people use it. With the increased traffic, the safety of hikers, especially the elderly, will be jeopardised."

The house on Lugard Road, was designed by Lennox Bird, a partner of architectural firm Palmer and Turner, and completed around 1916.

Crown Empire bought the property in September for HK$384 million.

Then in June, the Antiquities Advisory Board proposed granting it grade-two historical status.

The developer applied to the Town Planning Board to turn the house into a heritage hotel with 17 rooms.

It plans to build two new structures to provide, with the existing building, a gross floor area of 1,158 square metres.

"The proposed heritage hotel will allow successful conservation and maintenance of the existing building, and give opportunities to appreciate the distinctive building as well as the history and environment of the surrounding areas," the developer said.

It would provide free guided tours to offer the public an insight into the history of the house.

Dr Joseph Yao Ki-fu, who lived in the house for 12 years, has written a letter in support of Chan's stance.

The lane was too narrow to accommodate vehicles that transported hotel guests and their luggage, Yao said.

"There are close to 40 turns from the beginning of Lugard Road to No 27," he said in a letter to Chan.

At each turn, the front bumper of the vehicle would virtually be touching the railing in order to gain enough clearance, he said.

He noted that another serious issue was landslides, which would cut off access to the place.

He doubted whether the house was suitable to be converted into a hotel, where guests would have to deal regularly with inconvenience and danger.

Companies Registry data shows Crown Empire is owned by GNL 12, which belongs to a company registered in Anguilla in the Caribbean.