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Living heritage of Hong Kong

Hong Kong activists petition against plan to demolish Sheung Wan site slated for preservation

Chief executive-elect Carrie Lam, then development chief, was involved in the original plan to protect tenement

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 07 May, 2017, 10:17pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 07 May, 2017, 10:31pm

Activists in Hong Kong have slammed the Urban Renewal Authority for not upholding a previous plan to preserve an old site in Sheung Wan.

In 2013, the preservation of a tenement building between Staunton Street and Shing Wong Street was approved. Chief executive-elect Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet ngor was heavily involved in the project as she was development chief during its planning stages.

Katty Law Ngar-ning, convenor of the Central and Western Concern Group, said the statutory board submitted a new application to the Town Planning Board in April that included plans to demolish the protected structure.

Under the plan, two residential towers with about 20 floors will be built, which the group said would tarnish the unique character of the neighbourhood.

The proposed maximum plot ratio based on net site area was almost doubled. Law said this went against Lam’s previous pledge to develop the area in a low-density manner.

“These tenement buildings are very precious architecture,” Law said, referring to the post-war style of the structure, such as ventilated stairways.

Lawmaker Tanya Chan Suk-chong also questioned the new plan: “If [the authority] can go back on its word, does this mean other sites will have this fate too?”

A spokeswoman from the authority said the site’s outline zoning plan did not designate it as a conservation area nor list any building as historic.

She added that the authority was seeking to maximise land development and improve the supply of residential housing amid a severe lack of space in the city.

The spokeswoman said that as the project’s buildings were in poor condition, the district council requested the authority to carry out the new project as soon as possible to improve the living environment.

But Law claimed the authority misrepresented facts in its application, such as stating that the owner had already destroyed unique design elements.

She also said the authority ignored a motion passed by the Central and Western District Council on March 16 to strongly oppose the new scheme.

The group will submit its petition to Lam’s office this week.

Dare Koslow, owner of two apartments in the area, said: “The community is making a very clear message that we don’t want or need [the new development]. We are doing a fine job on our own to renovate our apartments and to bring this community back to life.”