An application to redevelop an old house in the heart of Tai O has raised the alarm about the fate of the government's plan to preserve the ambience of the Lantau fishing village, which lacks any town planning controls. The two-storey white house at 2 and 4 Tai O Market Street may not be an architectural masterpiece, but it has been a key element of the oldest commercial street in the village for about 70 years. The Antiquities Advisory Board proposed grade-two historic status for it yesterday after being informed that the landlord had submitted an application to build two small houses there. The case was urgently placed on the agenda as departments needed a heritage grading as a basis to deal with the small-house application. In the one-month consultation that follows, the landlord and the public can make submissions about the grading. 'We are worried that the new buildings will destroy the ambience of the old place. It is not an individual block but the overall outlook of the old street that counts,' board chairman Bernard Chan said. The house stands at the dropping point of the hand-pulled ferry, which used to be the main form of transport within Tai O. Featuring a narrow balcony, it was built in the 1920s and 1930s. It once housed Caltex, the only shop in Tai O selling kerosene for fuel and other daily necessities, according to the Antiquities and Monuments Office. Board member Dr Ng Cho-nam said the case raised the alarm about the consequences of a lack of planning control in Tai O. Like Tai Long Wan in Sai Kung, there is no zoning covering the Tai O village centre. 'If the centre is subject to uncontrolled development, I'm afraid the government's plan to revitalise Tai O will be miscarried,' Ng said. The plan involves a new entrance plaza at the Tai O bus terminus, a river wall to prevent flooding, a folk museum in stilted houses over water and a youth hostel to be built in a disused public housing block, among others. Some work has already started.