The Jockey Club has invited a renowned local architect to work with his Swiss counterparts on a new design for an additional structure at the Central Police Station compound.
But the move, which follows public rejection of a previous design, has drawn criticism because there are no plans for a fresh public consultation.
Architect Rocco Yim Sen-kee, who designed the future government headquarters at Tamar and the Peninsula Hotel's extension, said yesterday he would not be designing the project, but would advise the designers on local perspectives of urban and social culture and community sensitivity about the new building.
'I very much believe that the historic sites need new elements to bring vitality and synergy,' Mr Yim said, adding that he was open about the management of prison hall F, which the club did not rule out of demolition plans despite conservationists' call for its retention.
He said it would affect design flexibility if there was a height restriction on the historic site, which 13 NGOs proposed to town planners last month, but he stressed that he would communicate such concerns to his teammates.
The club's executive director for charities, William Yiu Yan-pui, said the project's design architect, Herzog and de Meuron, was 'cognisant of local culture, but after the public consultation they were specially aware of the project's importance to Hong Kong'. A conservation architect from Britain was also on the team.
'They are quite concerned about the society's acceptance of their outcome,' Mr Yiu said.
The new design, to be finalised by the end of the year, will be submitted to the Town Planning Board.
But the club would not conduct another round of public consultation on the new design, he said, adding that people could express their views through the board's own consultation procedure.
'We have clearly heard from the community that they do not want a tall structure. There is little time to do another round,' Mr Yiu said.
Town Planning Board member and architect Bernard Lim Wan-fung said the board had no mandate to assess or endorse architectural designs. 'The Jockey Club should not push the responsibility to the board, but should itself invite public views again,' he said.
Central and Western District Council vice-chairman Stephen Chan Chit-kwai said the club should seek council members' views, but had not approached it since the old proposal was dropped last summer.
Peter Li Siu-man of the Conservancy Association said it was incorrect to say the public were only concerned about height. 'We also want to know more about the conservation plan in detail.'
Heritage Hong Kong director Alexander Hui yat-chuen said a process without public consultation was flawed. 'Even if they are saying they are starting with a piece of blank paper, the process should be done with the proper procedure ... Without knowing what is best to preserve, there is no point in building a management plan.'
The club abandoned its plan to build a 160-metre tower last year in the face of public opposition.