The owner of the Cheung Kong Center in Central has lost a legal challenge to a government requirement that it continue to provide 800 parking spaces in the building, blocking a plan to convert 78 of them into a supermarket.
Mr Justice Anselmo Reyes said the Town Planning Board was fully entitled to require the owner, Turbo Top, a subsidiary of Hutchison Whampoa to keep all the spaces for future public benefit even if they were now underused.
The company, which was granted the site at the junction of Queen's Road Central and Garden Road 15 years ago with a special condition that it provide at least 800 public parking spaces, accused the board of micro-managing the building, and exceeding its jurisdiction.
'In my view, the Town Planning Board was fully entitled in the exercise of its planning functions to treat the 800 spaces as a public asset which should be preserved for the future benefit of the area,' Reyes wrote in a judgment that he handed down yesterday in the Court of First Instance.
'The spaces may currently be underutilised. But prudent planning strategy can include the preservation of an existing feature to meet unknown or unexpected contingencies, even where the feature may not be much used or appreciated at the moment.'
Turbo Top, which received the site - now the headquarters of Cheung Kong - in an agreement with the government in 1996, sought permission in 2008 to change the 78 parking spaces into a supermarket.
According to a study commissioned by the company, the spaces were at most 68 per cent occupied. The Transport Department was satisfied that if the supermarket went ahead, the remaining spaces would be enough.
However, weeks later, the board gazetted draft amendments to the outline zoning plan stating, among other things, that the site must have a minimum of 800 parking spaces.
Turbo Top objected, but the board ruled against it on January 21 this year, saying the terms stipulated in the draft plan reflected entitlements under the lease.
The company filed a writ challenging the amendments and the January decision, naming the board as respondent. It said the board could not impose restrictions on specific buildings, and did not have the power to micro-manage a building by preparing and approving plans that said what could or should be done to it.
Ruling against the company yesterday, Reyes said he did not believe that there was anything unworkable about the requirement for at least 800 public parking spaces.
The parking spaces had been a concern for the government at the time of the application, as 800 public parking spaces were lost with the demolition of the Garden Road Car Park.
car parking places was the number set when the site purchase was agreed to compensate for places lost in the Garden Road Car Park