First high-rise columbarium plan sparks concerns over traffic and crowd management

Town Planning Board rejects idea for 21-storey building in Kwai Chung, citing crowd concerns, but agrees that site is suitable for housing urns

PUBLISHED : Friday, 13 December, 2013, 11:33am
UPDATED : Saturday, 14 December, 2013, 3:49am

The Town Planning Board has struck down a proposal to build the city's first high-rise columbarium, telling the land owner to reduce the scale of the development in light of concerns over crowd management and traffic.

However, the approval of an application to rezone the industrial site for columbarium development marks the first change of its kind. The board said the decision did not mean a change of policy over the use of industrial land, adding that each rezoning application would be considered on an individual basis.

The 799 square metre site at 2-6 Wing Lap Street in Kwai Chung previously housed a two-storey leather factory but is currently vacant. The owner of the site, Dame Margaret Zee, who has been running a columbarium in Tuen Mun, submitted a proposal to build a 21-storey columbarium (pictured) which would provide space for 50,000 niches for urns.

At a meeting of the board's Metro Planning Committee yesterday, members voiced concerns about crowd management during the Ching Ming and Chung Yeung festivals, when large numbers of people flock to pay respects to their ancestors. They were not convinced that the high-rise design could effectively facilitate the flow of visitors.

One member, Roger Luk Koon-ho, criticised the applicant's estimate that around 5,000 people would visit at peak times during the Ching Ming and Chung Yeung festivals, saying it was unrealistic. Another member, Clarence Leung Wang-ching, said the proposed site was not easily accessible by public transport.

After the meeting, board spokesman Edward Lo Wai-ming said the committee had found the site suitable for housing a columbarium given its proximity to Tsuen Wan Chinese Permanent Cemetery. However, it disagreed with the scale of development proposed by the applicant and required the Planning Department to submit a report with revised building parameters, including plot ratio and building height.

Zee will still need to secure the committee's approval for the revised plan, and approval from both the board and the Executive Council to change the outline zoning plan before a columbarium can be built.

The government has received 9,014 comments from the public on the proposal, with a majority of 8,972 supportive of it. Among the supporters were Legislative Council president Jasper Tsang Yok-sing and 11 other lawmakers. However, Kwai Tsing District Council has passed a motion objecting to the plan.