Conservationists and activists who have been eagerly awaiting the heritage policy are surprised to find it has already been released: in the chief executive's policy address.
The measures listed by Donald Tsang Yam-kuen on October 10 constituted the policy, and no more consultation was planned beyond a public forum that was attended by about 50 people on Saturday, the Development Bureau said.
Lawmakers, professionals and Antiquities Advisory Board members who had been looking forward to a policy framework being mapped out after public views were sought early this year said Mr Tsang's initiatives, while welcome, were not a policy.
The measures include revitalising historic buildings, providing financial assistance to maintain private historical buildings and conducting heritage impact assessment on graded buildings in government projects.
'An action plan cannot substitute a long-term directive policy,' lawmaker Patrick Lau Sau-shing said. 'From the policy document, we do not know if we are going to meet the international standards for heritage conservation.'
Laurence Li Lu-jen, an Antiquities Advisory Board member, said there were still questions. 'Will our urban planning system work with the new initiatives?'
Lee Ho-yin, architectural conservation programme director of the University of Hong Kong, said Mr Tsang had not said whether the board would be reformed.
The bureau elaborated on the measures in a 14-page statement given to a Legco meeting last week, which also explained why some public suggestions had not been taken. It said a heritage trust would not be established until the present proposals had been in place for about five years, but the government would start studying overseas experience.
The bureau also said the idea of transferring development rights to protect privately owned heritage sites would be considered only on a case-by-case basis, as setting up a formal mechanism would involve substantial legislative amendments and difficult issues of determining the value of sites.
A bureau spokeswoman said the government had already gauged public views on the policy at Saturday's forum and no public consultation will be held in the coming months except individual meetings with professional groups.
Secretary for Development Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor said yesterday the new policy was action-based to address the public demand for measures to protect heritage.