Friday, November 27, 2015   

West Wing set for status quo

Kelly Ip

Monday, November 05, 2012


The West Wing redevelopment plan for the old government headquarters may now be scrapped, with the Antiquities Advisory Board poised to likely rate it a Grade 1 historic buidling.

The revised rating, expected next month, will come after a public consultation showed more than 90 percent of locals support the idea that "every effort should be made to preserve [the building] if possible."

Initially, the board in June raised the rating of the building on Government Hill to Grade 2, but even this sparked a public outcry after which four board members resigned.

That grading came after the government declared plans to tear down the West Wing and construct a 32-story commercial tower in its place, saying the historic value of the former office was relatively low.

The board then raised the rating from Grade 3 to Grade 2 and launched a public consultation that ended on August 31.

The June meeting saw the board deadlocked, with members split evenly on Grade 1 and Grade 2 ratings.

Bernard Charnwut Chan then used his vote as the chairman to rate it a Grade 2 building, sparking criticism that he was acting in collusion with the government.

The four members who quit had all voted in favor of a Grade 2 rating.

So it is more than likely that when the next ballot takes place, those in favor of labeling it a Grade 1 building will hold sway.

Should this happen, the government will likely review the redevelopment plan for the West Wing, a source said.

Architecture expert Lee Ho-yin, who quit the board in June, said the West Wing is not of Grade 1 standard but public opinion will have to be taken into consideration since it is a government property.

But Hong Kong Institute of Urban Design president Bernard Lim Wan-fung said the board should take professional opinion into consideration and public opinion as reference only.

Lim said: "The Antiquities Advisory Board is not the Town Planning Board nor a district council, it should not make decisions based on public opinion and should use a more objective standard."

He also believes the board's rating is only one of the considerations and the government should decide separately on whether to redevelop the West Wing building.

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