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Secretary for Development speaks about "Conserving Central" (with photo)

Following is the transcript of the Secretary for Development, Mrs Carrie Lam, speaking to the media after the briefing session on "Conserving Central" today (October 16):

Reporter: Why is there a need to demolish the West Wing of CGO? Could it be converted like the Murray Building? Secondly, why you mentioned that some places have to be demolished so that Hong Kong could develop?

Secretary for Development: Let me take the second question first. I think that we have come a long way in building Hong Kong into today's Asia financial city and a world's city. I was saying that we should not just disown the things that we have done in the past which have contributed to Hong Kong's success as a world's city, which of course also resulted in the improvement in our living standard and all the other things. But the world is changing and the public aspirations change. So it was only right for the government having gone out to listen to the people and to give a positive response to the public aspirations and to adopt what the Chief Executive has outlined in his 2007 Policy Address on "progressive development". While economic progress will continue to be very important, so partly to answer your first question, while continued provision of some high quality office space in the Central business district is still very important, we are not giving up that totally. At the same time, we should pay more attention to balanced development, diversity in development, to give due regard to quality space, historic preservation, local culture and so on. So that's the meaning of what I said. There is no point to going back to put a mark, a tick or a cross on everything that the government has done over these 150 years which has brought Hong Kong to today's situation.

As far as the West Wing is concerned, we have spent time to commission a UK heritage conservation architect to do a very comprehensive historical and heritage appraisal of the entire compound and the buildings. In fact in summary, the conclusion is the site is more important than the buildings because the buildings are pretty modern. They were built all after the war in the early 1950s one after another. But the site is very important because it is the seat of the government for over 150 years. It matches very well with the vicinity where we have church facilities, where we have the Government House and where we have other related facilities. So in preserving the site and adopting what I just mentioned as a balanced development and taking full account of the expert's recommendations, relatively speaking, actually West Wing has much less merit in historical and architectural terms, particularly because it has been significantly altered over the years. We decided that West Wing could give way to some commercial development in the heart of Central. But we will be extremely careful in planning the use of the West Wing site. You would realise that actually the West Wing site is a pretty large footprint spanning Ice House Street, Queen's Road Central as well as Lower Albert Road. So the inclination is any new building will be very close to Ice House Street rather than on Lower Albert Road because Lower Albert Road together with the Government House and the cluster nearby should be very much preserved as low-rise, very green and vegetated, that sort of development for public enjoyment. I cannot tell you exactly the planning parameters for West Wing because we have just started to work on it. But I can assure you that we will bear in mind the recommendations in the heritage appraisal and the very important significance of this site.

(Please also refer to the Chinese portion of the transcript.)

Ends/Friday, October 16, 2009
Issued at HKT 20:50

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The Secretary for Development, Mrs Carrie Lam, and Chairman of the Antiquities Advisory Board, Mr Bernard Chan, view a model showing the heritage buildings in Central District after attending a briefing session on 'Conserving Central'.
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