Hong Kong neighbours fear high-rise development on site of historic century-old villa

Owner wants to construct seven 25-storey blocks and turn villa in Sheung Shui into a clubhouse

PUBLISHED : Friday, 12 August, 2016, 8:54pm
UPDATED : Friday, 12 August, 2016, 8:54pm

Residents of a low-density development in Sheung Shui in the northern New Territories are up in arms over a proposal to build seven high-rise residential towers near their homes, which will see the conversion of a 97-year-old historic villa into a private clubhouse.

Submitting a petition letter to the Town Planning Board on Friday, the Golf Parkview Residents’ Concern Group cited traffic, environmental and safety concerns in opposing the construction of 816 units at the site of Oi Yuen Villa, which has been given a grade 1 historic building assessment, pending confirmation by the Antiquities Advisory Board.

Injunction won over ‘lawless’ New Territories land

The villa and its surrounding lot are owned by Hui Sai-fun, chairman of Central Development group and son of late shipping magnate Hui Oi-chow. He is also the father-in-law of actress and socialite Michele Reis.

Built before 1919, the single-storey country house is of mixed Tudor and classical architectural styles and was once owned by Jardine Matheson, before it was acquired by the Hui family in 1957. Prominent visitors included colonial governor David Trench, former Executive Council member Chau Tsun-nin and philanthropist Tang Shiu-kin.

According to the application, the 31,000-square-metre site will see the construction of seven 25-storey towers, plus 727 car park spaces. The villa, to be surrounded by the buildings, will become a residents’ clubhouse, with a swimming pool built next to it. Hui Oi-chow’s grave will be preserved and screened by trees.

Time bomb ticking in New Territories over new town development plan

The applicant argued that the proposal was in line with the “changing planning circumstances” in the surrounding areas. The site lies within the Fanling/Sheung Shui Outline Zoning Plan, which will be partially incorporated into the government’s Northeast New Territories development blueprint.

But residents from Golf Parkview, five-storey blocks which are only metres away from the site, fear traffic chaos if they share the same access road, Pak Wai Lane, which is not designed to accommodate so many vehicles and pedestrians.

They also argue that the towers will create a wall effect, blocking out sunlight and hindering air flow in the area, creating an adverse health impact for local residents.

It is believed that as many as 300 trees – some over a century old – were felled in recent months in preparation for the development.

The rezoning application is scheduled to be discussed by the Town Planning Board on September 30.