A controversial proposal to build the city's first high-rise private columbarium in Kwai Chung has received approval from town planners, after the developer agreed to scale it down to 11 storeys housing some 23,000 niches.
The project will now be about half the size of the developer's original plan to build a 21-storey block accommodating 50,000 niches, after the Kwai Tsing District Council objected on the grounds that it would increase traffic in the area.
The 799 square metre site at 2-6 Wing Lap Street still needs the board's approval on rezoning. Located in an industrial district, it formerly housed a leather factory but is now vacant.
"Members found that a columbarium with 23,000 niches there would be suitable and was the maximum scale that should be allowed," Town Planning Board spokeswoman Lily Yam Ya-may said.
Despite the height reduction, the Kwai Chung project will still be the tallest of the city's private columbariums. A public columbarium in phase two of the Cape Collinson cemetery has 11 floors.
The world's tallest columbarium is in Sao Paulo, Brazil, the Planning Department has found.
Phase two of the Memorial Necropole Ecumenica, built in 1983, has 14 floors and 14,000 niches, and is a tourist attraction.
A phase three development is under way, with 32 storeys to be constructed for 25,000 niches.
In 2011, casino mogul Stanley Ho Hung-sun's flagship Shun Tak opened the five-storey Taipa Hills Memorial Garden in Macau, aiming to provide 40,000 niches. The garden's general manager, Winnie Pao Wei-ling, said about 4,600 niches had been sold, with about a third of the buyers from Hong Kong.
In the Kwai Chung project, the department suggested the revised building parameters after studying the conditions of columbariums locally and elsewhere. The board's metro planning committee agreed on the revisions yesterday. Project developer Dame Margaret Zee could not be reached for comment.
Eddie Tse Sai-kit, convenor of the Alliance for the Concern over Columbarium Policy, welcomed the board's latest decision as it could ease the shortage of urn places. The location was suitable because it was near a cemetery but far from residences, he said.
But district councillor Ng Kim-sing noted that a proposed facility of more than 30,000 niches on Wing Kei Road was being vetted.
The two projects together would increase the number of niches in Kwai Chung by more than 53,000, he said.