The owner of the historic Ho Tung Gardens can go ahead with plans to redevelop the mansion after the government on Tuesday ruled against declaring it a monument – a legal status that would require its preservation.
Meanwhile, the government has shelved its plan to demolish the west wing of the former central government headquarters building in Central and turn it into a commercial building. The block, along with the rest of the complex, would be preserved and used as offices for the Department of Justice, the government said.
Secretary for Development Paul Chan Mo-po said at a press conference on Tuesday afternoon that the decision not to list Ho Tung Gardens as a monument was made by Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying and the Executive Council.
He noted that the 83-year-old villa on The Peak was privately owned, and blocking its redevelopment plan – which has already obtained official approval – might lead to a court fight with its owner.
Ho Min-kwan, the owner of the historic gardens and granddaughter of late tycoon Robert Hotung, has plans to demolish the main house and replace it with 10 smaller houses as part of a HK$3 billion redevelopment plan.
Chan said the government had offered Ho a land exchange deal and HK$3 billion in compensation to preserve the mansion, but this was rejected by Ho.
The government would continue to negotiate with Ho in the hope that parts of the historic mansion might be preserved.
“I hope the owner can consider preserving parts of the gardens in the redevelopment. Our policy objective is to strike a balance between respecting private ownership and protecting heritage,” he said.
As for the west wing of the old government headquarters, Chan said the block could cater to the needs of the Justice Department, which has a shortage of office space. The department could also take over the east and central wings, he said.
The government had planned to turn the old headquarters' west wing – which is more than 50 years old – into a 32-storey office tower.