Jockey Club accused of staircase removal

Local | Charlotte Luo 12 Sep 2018

The Hong Kong Jockey Club may have concealed the truth about an important staircase in an old block at the 153-year-old former Central police station compound during an Antiquities Advisory Board meeting, the Central and Western Concern Group said.

The group and Civic Party lawmaker Tanya Chan are concerned the staircase was illegally removed by the club.

Part of the block collapsed in May 2016 due to drilling intended to reinforce a wall.

At the advisory board meeting last Thursday, the Jockey Club claimed that one of the staircases, which is among the most important original features remaining in the building, "was not there anymore."

Law Ngar-ning, the concern group's convener, quoted the Jockey Club as saying: "There's only a fragment of it with the collapse, so a lot of it is already gone. We basically salvaged all the granite of the existing stairs and it's in storage now. We think it will be a nice gesture to reuse this."

Law said the evidence the group had collected indicates the staircase was still there after the collapse occurred.

She said the group went through the Independent Review Panel report by the Jockey Club, and investigation report by the Buildings Department, but there was no mention of any staircase being damaged in the collapse.

"The collapsed area was limited to one room, part of the veranda, and part of the roof," she said. "It is therefore highly likely that the two sets of staircases were still intact after the collapse."

Law presented a floor plan marking the extent of the collapse on the second floor. Most of the granite staircase and entire wooden staircase were not located in the part of the building that collapsed.

She also cited a Cultural Heritage impact assessment completed in 2011, saying the retention of these two staircases "is essential to understand the original circulation pattern of the building."

"There is some conservation work necessary to bring them back into good use. Any repair work will be carried out in a sensitive manner," the assessment said.

Law urged the Development Bureau to conduct an immediate investigation into the disappearance of the granite staircase.

"If yes, who made it disappear? If not, why is the representative of the Jockey Club making false statements to the Antiquities Advisory Board?" Law asked. Chan said the Jockey Club will have violated the law if they demolished the staircase without a permit.

In response, the Jockey Club said the top landing loss rendered the granite staircase structurally unstable after the partial collapse.

The Development Bureau supports the Jockey Club in taking public safety as the primary consideration of the rehabilitation plan. It said the suggestions include reinforcement and improvement works that are necessary to ensure public safety.

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