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Hong Kong housing

Hong Kong concern group fails in bid to stop Anglican church’s plan for 25-storey hospital in Central

Town Planning Board rejects application to rezone area into heritage precinct

PUBLISHED : Friday, 10 August, 2018, 7:57pm
UPDATED : Friday, 10 August, 2018, 9:16pm

A controversial proposal to build a 25-storey private hospital in Hong Kong’s business hub is likely to go forward after town planning authorities rejected a bid to foil the plan.

The Hong Kong Sheng Kung Hui – the city’s Anglican church – announced last year it would build a 25-storey private hospital on the grounds of its historic Bishop’s House compound in Central.

The Town Planning Board on Friday rejected an application submitted by a concern group seeking a rezoning of two neighbouring sites into a heritage precinct, including the compound, as well as the imposition of height restrictions for any new developments or redevelopments in the area.

The 6.3 hectare area is predominantly low-rise in nature, and covers at least 13 historic buildings. Three of these, including Government House and St John’s Cathedral, are declared monuments.

Under the proposal, any new development or redevelopment of a building would not exceed its original height.

It would also require planning permission from the board for the demolition, addition or alteration of existing buildings.

The applicant, called the Government Hill Concern Group, expressed disappointment with the board’s decision to reject its proposal.

“Such a large-scale development would be out of place and incompatible with the area’s low-rise, low-density and green environment,” group convenor Katty Law Ngar-ning said.

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“With no planning control in place, Sheng Kung Hui could propose redeveloping its other buildings into 20 to 30-storey residential property with luxury flats in the future if they wanted.”

According to Sheng Kung Hui, the new development would be a not-for-profit hospital, providing 293 beds, 12 operating theatres and 90 car parking spaces.

Such a large-scale development would be out of place and incompatible with the area
Katty law Ngar-ning, Government Hill Concern Group

After the deliberation on Friday, a Planning Department spokesman did not explain the reason for the concern group’s proposal being rejected. But he said the board was concerned about the church’s redevelopment plans and designs.

The board requested the department look into certain relevant recommendations put forth by the applicant in its proposal.

The government’s Commissioner for Heritage’s Office and the Antiquities and Monuments Office said in an earlier paper they did not support the application, pointing to already established mechanisms to provide “sufficient control, monitoring and protection” for historic buildings and declared monuments within the sites.

The authorities added there was a need to “strike a proper balance between preservation of historic buildings and respect for private property rights”.

The Planning Department said it opposed the group’s proposal over concerns it could lead to “unnecessary delays” in carrying out future maintenance and repair works at historic buildings within the site.

The church’s plan for the hospital need not be reviewed by the Town Planning Board, a statutory body. Building a hospital falls within the scope of permitted uses, and the site is not covered by any building height restrictions.

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This means the church would only need to secure approval from relevant government departments on traffic, visual and heritage impact assessments.

Law also voiced worries that the narrow roads in Central and existing traffic congestion during peak hours would worsen with an influx of patients going to and from the hospital.

The church has yet to submit a finalised design and the necessary technical assessments.