Developer Cecil Chao Sze-tsung has launched a scathing attack on the Government, claiming red tape not only delays property developments but adversely affects investment returns. Mr Chao, executive chairman of Cheuk Nang Properties (Holdings), said the Government did not realise how seriously its bureaucracy could affect the development scheduling of a project. 'Timing is very important for marketing our projects,' Mr Chao said. 'A profitable investment might be reversed if we missed the market boom.' Mr Chao blamed government red tape for the prolonged delays in the progress of his luxury residential project planned on The Peak. Six years had passed since Cheuk Nang bought the 24,000-square-foot site at 30 Severn Road at a government auction in 1992 for $33 million. The development had not got off the ground until now, he said. Mr Chao said it took years to resolve the site's slope problems due to paper shuffling between government departments. He said the Government failed to listen to, or try to understand, the difficulties facing developers. 'The prolonged government paper-processing would also increase our construction costs,' he said. Mr Chao also said the requirements for demolition work and the upgrade on slopes were too strict. The cost of strengthening the slopes was several times higher than before. He said it was more frustrating to do business now than in the past. Beset by delays and faced with having to support its earnings amid a property downturn, Cheuk Nang had offered the Peak site for sale by tender. The group had received five bids by the deadline in January, but had not decided whether to sell. Mr Chao, 62, comes from a wealthy family which runs a shipping business through Wah Kwong Shipping Holdings. He started his career in 1963 as a building surveyor at the Buildings Department, later leaving the civil service to work as an assistant architect at a private firm. In 1988, he took over listed company Cheuk Nang to begin a career as a property developer. Mr Chao prefers to develop luxury residential projects with individual designs. 'This is our expertise and the company will focus on this niche market,' he said. However, government red tape and the economic downturn had rendered the company less active since 1997. Cheuk Nang would be more cautious in future land acquisitions and would first proceed with the several projects it had on hand. Given the economic recession and the prevailing uncertainty in the market, the group preferred to hold cash instead of adopting an aggressive expansion plan. Last year, Mr Chao paid his own company $84 million to buy the three-storey garden house Happy Lodge in Pokfulam as a way to boost Cheuk Nang's cash flow. The 22-year-old Happy Lodge, comprising a 5,877 sq ft house and a 13,600 sq ft roof, garage and garden area, is Mr Chao's residence. As an architect, Mr Chao enjoys taking on the role of designer for most of Cheuk Nang's projects. He said the Bank of China Tower in Central was one of his favourite buildings as it reflected the architect's unlimited imagination. The building was designed by Chinese-American architect I.M. Pei. The designs of modern buildings certainly were better than those of the past, he said. In the Cheuk Nang development portfolio, the Villa Cecil phases two and three adjacent to Happy Lodge, named after Mr Chao, are unmistakably his handiwork. Mr Chao said the design concept for Villa Cecil phase two would be a mix of modern and classic styles. To make the project a landmark building in the area, the company would pay construction costs of up to $3,000 per sq ft. Mr Chao also designed three luxury houses proposed for the project at Severn Road. However, his design may fall victim to the delay in the project's construction. If the site is sold, it is not certain whether the buyer will build according to his blueprint.