Public access to The Asia Society's new centre on a prime military heritage site in Admiralty will be limited when it opens in February because of what the organisation says is the 'need to conserve heritage'. Three years behind the original scheduled completion date, work at the Former Explosives Magazine at the Old Victoria Barracks on Justice Drive is nearly complete. Jack Wadsworth, vice-chairman of the society's New York centre, said the complex, which contains offices, a gallery, a theatre, a conference hall, a cafe and shops, would advance the society's role in promoting ties between Asia and the United States. 'It enables the highest concentration of the population to enjoy the facility,' Wadsworth said. The institution was granted grade-one historic site status for 21 years at a nominal premium of HK$1,000 in 2005. Critics at that time slammed the government for handing over the site without holding a tender. It has spent HK$380 million - part of it donated by the Jockey Club Charitable Trust - to renovate the four historic buildings, construct a new entrance block and add a footbridge to link them. Not all facilities will be open to the public free of charge. Edith Ngan Chan, executive director of the Hong Kong Centre, said people would have to buy entry to the theatre and gallery. Project architects Tod Williams and Billie Tsien said the site was designed to preserve jungle surrounding the military blocks to make it a continuation of nearby Hong Kong Park. Chan said people would 'need to make an appointment and join a free guided tour. This is because we have to control the number of visitors to protect the heritage.' Educational programmes would be organised for schools, she said. According to the land lease, the centre can charge admission fees similar to public arts venues. The architects said the work had been delayed by the need to redesign a footbridge to avoid disturbing a colony of fruit bats and installation of air-conditioning units underground. Not everyone is happy with the new arrangements. Antiquities Advisory Board member Dr Ng Cho-nam said he had had high expectations about public access. 'The society has taken one of the most important heritage sites in the city, in such a prime location and at such a low premium. The public have legitimate expectation to be able to enjoy the facility without lots of restrictions,' he said.