The chief executive's Fanling Lodge and the clubhouse at the Hong Kong Golf Club - both touted as possible sites for housing - are set to receive heritage gradings that could make redevelopment more difficult.
Secretary for Development Paul Chan Mo-po said in July last year that the two colonial-era landmarks in Fanling may have to go as the government struggled to find sites for over 400,000 homes in the next decade.
But the Antiquities Advisory Board yesterday unanimously agreed to support giving the lodge the highest heritage rating, grade one, and a grade-two rating for the clubhouse. The rating is subject to a two-month public consultation before the board makes a final decision.
Graded historic buildings are not protected by law. But a grade-one declaration is the final step before a site is declared a historic monument.
Speaking after the meeting, board chairman Andrew Lam Siu-lo said the gradings were not related to any specific development proposal.
"Development projects are decided by the Development Bureau," he said. "The board's role was to assess the historic value of the buildings and to give them gradings accordingly. We certainly hope any development plan will respect the historic value of heritage buildings."
Asked if the board's recognition of the historic value of the two buildings would hinder development plans, he said: "I cannot assess any impact as there is no development plan now."
A public consultation on changes to the conservation system, often criticised as inadequate by heritage groups, was due to start in January but has been delayed to the middle of the year, Lam said.
The clubhouse has served the city's oldest golf club since 1914, while the lodge, a two-storey country house, was built in 1934 as a summer residence for colonial governors. It has served the same purpose for chief executives since the 1997 handover.
Board member Professor Rebecca Chiu Lai-har suggested the lodge deserved monument status. Lam said the board did not have the power to declare a statutory monument, but could make a suggestion to the government if members agreed. Monuments are declared by the Antiquities Authority after discussion with the board and the chief executive.
Professor Ng Cho-nam, an urban planning expert at the University of Hong Kong and former board member, welcomed the listing. "I don't see any difficulties in incorporating the two heritage buildings into future new-town developments.
"The challenge now is how the buildings would be reused in a meaningful way," he said.
The golf course and clubhouse were suggested for possible redevelopment by environmentalists and by villagers who will be displaced to make way for new towns in the Northern New Territories as the government strives to find land for homes.
Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying went on to say that he was willing to give up his country home for development, while environmental group Green Sense suggested taking the golf course for development but keeping the clubhouse.
Green Sense president Roy Tam Hoi-pong yesterday's welcomed the decision.
"The clubhouse should be kept even if the golf course is replaced by a new town," he said.