Green group fears plan to save wall trees will fail

PUBLISHED : Friday, 19 December, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 19 December, 2008, 12:00am

A green group has challenged the tree preservation proposal for the Hopewell Centre II hotel project, saying transplanting the valuable wall trees was unlikely to succeed.

The site is the only place in Wan Chai where the trees rooted in walls can still be found, Conservancy Association campaign manager Peter Li Siu-man said. The wall was part of the private Tung Chi College, which has been mostly demolished.

The project, between Queen's Road East and Kennedy Road, was initially known as Mega Tower.

Mr Li said the site could be readily turned into a relics park joining nearby historic buildings.

Although none of the 510 trees, including the 12 wall trees, on the site are listed in the government's old and valuable tree registry, they nonetheless form natural woodland and a green wedge leading from Mid-Levels, he said.

The developer, Hopewell Holdings, has announced it would spend HK$20 million to transplant and preserve some of the healthy trees, but the green group is doubtful.

One 25-metre Chinese banyan planted in a wall at the site, for example, may be valuable.

'I am not confident that this tree will survive if transplanted,' said the group's conservation manager and tree expert, Ken So Kwok-yin. 'Its roots have extended deep inside the wall. It is difficult to move the whole thing without causing damage.'

He estimated the tree was about 30 to 50 years old.

Jim Chi-yung, a tree expert at the University of Hong Kong, described the tree as surprisingly beautiful and said transplanting it would almost be impossible, 'unless they lift the whole wall together with the mud using a crane. But the place may be too small for vehicles to get in.'

The association applied to the Town Planning Board to rezone the government land as green belt. It wants the developer to build the hotel on its share of the land. The board will discuss the proposal today.