Green groups call for studies before felling begins at the former marine police HQ Most of the trees surrounding the former marine police headquarters in Tsim Sha Tsui will be cut down under plans to turn the historic site into a hotel and piazza for tourists. Green groups yesterday called for more studies to be done before the trees were destroyed. Flying Snow Company, a subsidiary of Cheung Kong Holdings, was granted the development project in May after bidding $326million for 50-year rights to the site. In an application made on Monday to the Environmental Protection Department for a direct work permit, the company outlined a plan that would retain just 19 of the 192 trees on the site. If approved, it can start construction without any further public consultation. Flying Snow said the site would become a heritage tourism site recreating a sense of 'colonial splendour'. One of the trees that will be preserved is a giant banyan tree at the junction of Salisbury and Canton roads. Twenty-seven trees will be transplanted. The company said in its application that most of the trees were small and in 'average to poor' condition, while some might not survive transplantation. To make way for the widening of Canton Road, a century-old granite retaining wall would also be demolished. The company said it would consider reusing the granite blocks, but the application did not say how they might be utilised. Work is expected to begin early next year and be completed by mid-2006. Jim Chi-yung, an urban tree expert at Hong Kong University, called for an in-depth survey of the trees at the site before any felling took place. 'Unless most of the trees are of common species and small in size, otherwise they should be kept,' Professor Jim said. 'But it is a pity to see the granite retaining wall go as it is part of the heritage site that should be protected.' Man Chi-sum, the chief executive officer of Green Power, which once proposed converting the site into an eco-tourism project, said the company should carry out a detailed environmental impact assessment. 'What we are worried about is that the site will be fully utilised to its maximum and conservation will be sacrificed as the developer has a top priority to make a profit,' he said. Flying Snow could not be reached for comment yesterday. The 11,000 square-metre area is famous for its 119-year-old colonial architecture. The project will conserve the headquarters' two-storey main building, located on a small hill, and convert it into a hotel. New retail facilities will also be built on the site. To improve access to the hotel and shops, part of the slope will be excavated to ground level, making it easier to get to the proposed piazza from Salisbury Road. Occupying a strategic location, with uninterrupted views of most of the harbour and Kowloon peninsula, the headquarters were opened in September 1884. They were occupied by the Japanese navy during the second world war.