150-year-old wall to move for redevelopment in Hong Kong

Antiquities advisers withhold approval on plan to remove then restore piece of city's heritage

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 05 March, 2014, 4:04am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 05 March, 2014, 4:42am

A historic stone wall in Admiralty is likely to be damaged under development plans for the new Central harbourfront that require its temporary removal, the government's heritage advisers have warned.

A 35-metre section of the wall, which is more than 150 years old, falls within a site on Cotton Tree Drive earmarked for a pumping station. The Water Supplies Department plans to remove the wall and then reinstate it after work is completed.

But members of the Antiquities Advisory Board warned it would get damaged.

"I am very much against the idea of destroying a piece of built heritage and then reinstating it," board member Tim Ko Tim-keung told two department engineers at a meeting yesterday.

"It is rare for a defence structure as old as this wall to survive."

The board demanded the department find ways to save it.

The Central harbourfront project covers a series of developments from Central to Wan Chai.

Under the administration's plan, the Harcourt Road Fresh Water Pumping Station along the harbourfront in Wan Chai will be moved next to Flagstaff House, part of the Victoria Barracks from 1846 to 1979 and now home to the Museum of Tea Ware.

The house is a statutory monument, but the boundary wall is not under statutory protection.

"It will be a pity if the wall has to be removed and then reinstated, although I understand there are technical difficulties [in the relocation of the pumping station]," board member Dr Joseph Ting Sun-pao said.

Department engineers Albert Cheung King-min and Fung Yuk-ming initially told the board that temporary removal was the best option because the wall was vulnerable and therefore unsuitable for being lifted up while the construction works were ongoing.

When pressed further to study alternative solutions, they said it was not impossible but "the works could cost millions of dollars. Is it worth spending taxpayers' money in this way?"

Cheung pleaded with the board members to approve the plan immediately because time was running out.

"We have to apply to the [Legislative Council's] Finance Committee for funding in June. If we can't start working now, the whole project will be delayed … The government hopes to finish relocating the pumping station by 2019."

The board withheld its approval yesterday and asked the department to submit a report on possible ways to preserve the wall.

Chairman Andrew Lam Siu-lo said they could make a decision by circulating the report before their next meeting, given the urgency of the matter.