Antiquities board to grade historic Fanling lodge and club

Government heritage advisers will decide on monument status of buildings, independent of debate over whether to use sites for housing

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 05 December, 2013, 4:45am
UPDATED : Thursday, 05 December, 2013, 4:45am

The Antiquities Advisory Board hopes to decide next month on the grading of the historic buildings of the Chief Executive's Lodge and the Hong Kong Golf Club's clubhouse in Fanling.

It comes amid public debate over whether the lodge and club should be used for housing under the government's plan to build new towns in the northeast New Territories.

The discussion followed an assessment panel proposal that the lodge and clubhouse be given grade-one and grade-two monument status, respectively. The board meeting yesterday did not come to a conclusion, but asked for more information.

In July, development minister Paul Chan Mo-po said the lodge and club could make way for housing, with Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying later saying he was willing to include the lodge in the development boundary if necessary.

Despite this context, board chairman Andrew Lam Siu-lo maintained that the board would base its grading solely on the buildings' historic, architectural and social values. The future use of the sites was outside the board's mandate, he said.

"Just like when we discussed the grading of the old government headquarters' west wing, we did not take into consideration traffic in Central and whether Hong Kong needed more space for offices," Lam said.

"We do hope to make an impact on the future uses of historic buildings … But in reality … the grading decisions are purely administrative."

However, former board member Dr Lee Ho-yin, an architectural conservation expert at the University of Hong Kong, said grading still had an implication for the future of the buildings because it brought public attention to their historic value. He agreed with the panel's proposed grading of the two buildings.

The clubhouse was built in 1914 as part of facilities for the city's oldest golf club. The lodge, a two-storey country house, was built in 1934 as a summer residence for colonial governors. It has served the same purpose for the city's chief executives since the handover.

Environmental group Green Sense, which has called for the golf club land to be used for housing rather than to redevelop areas and affect existing residents, welcomed the proposed grading.

Chairman Roy Tam Hoi-pong said that while the club could be developed for community use, the clubhouse should be conserved as a monument.

The government plans to develop two new towns in the northeast New Territories to build more than 53,800 flats and house 174,900 people.

A Development Bureau spokeswoman said any grading would not affect the ownership and uses of the sites.