The government will press ahead with its call for bids to develop the Central police station, rejecting a joint request from the Hotung family and the University of Hong Kong to put the tender on hold. The Tourism Commission, which is co-ordinating the tender, stressed in a statement last night that it was committed to ensuring the historic buildings will be properly preserved. 'We have encouraged the Ho family group to continue to take an interest in the project and participate in the tender,' it said. 'However, we felt that it is not appropriate to reserve this process and dispose of the land by direct grant to one group.' A group of at least five families, led by Robert Ho Hung-ngai of the Hotung family, has earmarked $500 million to convert the buildings of Central police station, Victoria Prison and the former Central magistrates court into a complex that will include a visual arts academy and a library for the arts. Exhibition halls, a music and performing arts venue, a square, restaurants and commercial galleries are also part of the development. The group wants the tender amended to favour the participation of non-profit bodies. It then plans to bid a nominal $1 for the site. Under the arts complex plan, the academy would be run by the University of Hong Kong, which had a hand in shaping the vision. In the past months, the group has lobbied Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa and the commission to put the tender on hold and reconsider how to conserve and develop the buildings. It also sought the support of various organisations, such as the Central and Western District Council and the Hong Kong Institute of Architects. The group placed an advertisement in several Chinese language newspapers yesterday, again demanding that Mr Tung put the tender on hold. 'The government will ensure that all 17 historic buildings at the Central police station site will be protected in accordance with the relevant legislation,' the administration's statement said. No proposal would be evaluated unless it had first satisfied requirements on heritage conservation, environmental and traffic considerations and also took account of its value to the community and benefit to tourism.