Victoria Peak hotel go-ahead slammed as 'hasty'

Councillor slams move to approve conversion of historic mansion, saying it lacks foresight

PUBLISHED : Friday, 11 October, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 11 October, 2013, 6:37am

Transport and planning chiefs were accused by district councillors yesterday of a lack of foresight in hastily approving a proposal for a 97-year-old mansion on The Peak to be converted into a hotel.

Central and Western district councillor Joseph Chan Ho-lim of the Liberal Party slammed the two departments for allowing the conversion of the four-storey property at 27 Lugard Road despite strong opposition, and for not giving enough time to a public consultation.

A motion put forth by Chan to oppose the development received the unanimous support of 15 other council members. Two members abstained.

Chan criticised the Transport Department for not taking into account potential traffic hazards and the fact that Lugard Road was the first section of the Hong Kong Trail, which is ranked as one of the world's top 10 hiking trails by the Lonely Planet travel guide.

The mansion was also put forward to become a grade-two historic building earlier this year.

Chan said the road, the only one leading into and out of the site, measured just 1.8 metres at its widest point. Vehicles using it would pose a danger to the hundreds of hikers and tourists who frequented the area, he said.

"Cars using the road will have to share it with pedestrians, with only the space of a hand in between, making it extremely dangerous," said Chan.

The Transport Department sought to address the issue in an August proposal that involved the use of 1.5-metre-wide electric cars and limiting the number of journeys per vehicle to two an hour on weekdays and non-public holidays. But Chan said this idea was "impractical, impossible and lacking logic" as it ignored the fact that vehicles delivering supplies, as well as hotel staff and guests, would also need to use the road at times beyond the hotel's control.

Councillor Chan Choi-hi also added that the rule would be nearly impossible to enforce.

Transport Department senior engineer Tam Chung-on said the two cars an hour solution had already been offered to the developer, Crown Empire, and it was "up to them to make it work".

Tam said cars could give way to pedestrians.

Built in 1916, the house was bought by Crown Empire in September for HK$384 million.

The developer's proposal for a 17-room boutique hotel and the construction of two new villas was approved by the Town Planning Board last month.

The Antiquities and Monuments Office and Development Bureau did not oppose the project as the owner had promised to preserve the overall appearance of the building.