LCQ5: Hopewell Centre II
Following is a question by the Hon Tanya Chan and a reply by the Secretary for Development, Mrs Carrie Lam, in the Legislative Council today (November 19):
The Hopewell Centre II project involves the construction of a 93-storey hotel and commercial building on a site located at the junction of Ship Street and Kennedy Road in Wan Chai District. It has been reported that the developer may need to revise the development proposal for the project because the traffic impact assessment report which it submitted has recently been rejected by the Transport Department, yet, the Government may still enter into a land exchange agreement with the developer in respect of the project. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:
(a) as the project development blueprint published by the developer on 19 January 2004 showed that the lot at 196-206 Queen's Road East was earmarked as part of the land exchange scheme and designated as open space, but now the developer had built on that lot a large-scale commercial building comprising restaurants and dancing schools, whether the Government will find out if the development on that site violated the planning intention of the land exchange scheme then, which was to designate the land as open space; if there was violation, of the relevant follow-up actions;
(b) of an update on the discussion with the developer on land exchange in relation to the project; and
(c) as the Transport Department earlier rejected the traffic impact assessment report of the above project, whether the Government will reconsider the land exchange arrangement for this project; if not, of the reasons for that?
The Hopewell Centre II project (the project) in Wan Chai has recently attracted wide discussion in the community. I fully appreciate the concerns raised by some concerned groups and nearby residents on the development intensity and height as well as the traffic impact of the project. As I have pointed out at the sitting and the Panel on Development meeting of the last Legislative Council session, we must respect the development right of the landowner to proceed with the approved scheme, as well as the Government's established land exchange policy.
The Government is committed to striking a balance in development and we attach a lot of importance to public views. Over the past half year, the Development Bureau (DEVB) has been actively discussing with the developer with a view to achieving an appropriate balance between respecting the landowners' development right on the one hand, and addressing the public concern on the other. I am pleased to see that such discussion has borne fruit, in that the developer has agreed in principle to reduce significantly the scale of the project, and will submit a new revised scheme to the Government later. I hasten to add that such revision is not a result arising from the recent comments made by the Transport Department (TD) on the updated Traffic Impact Assessment (TIA) submitted by the developer in respect of the 1994 approved scheme, but a result of discussions between DEVB and the landowner. In any case, the significantly reduced development intensity would help in the subsequent discussion between the developer and TD regarding the TIA in the next phase.
Under the new revised scheme, the planning features of the development are as follows :
(a) The total gross floor area will be reduced by about 31%, as compared with the 1994 approved scheme; the plot ratio will be reduced from about 15 permissible under the approved scheme to about 10.3.
(b) Whilst the site coverage of the building will constitute about 20% of the Comprehensive Redevelopment Area (CRA) as in the approved scheme, the building height will be lowered significantly from 315mPD to 210mPD, and the storeys of building will be reduced from the original 93 to only about 55.
(c) As compared with the 1994 approved scheme, the number of hotel rooms will be reduced by half (from about 2,197 to about 1,024) and only convention facilities of appropriate quantity will be added. Besides, the commercial and office floor areas will also be reduced.
(d) Despite the development scale of the revised scheme has been reduced significantly, the developer will still provide about 5,880 square metres of open space for public use in accordance with the 1994 approved scheme.
Besides, the developer undertakes to preserve and revitalize the adjoining Nam Koo Terrace, a Grade I historical building, which is located outside the application site. The developer will also develop the land surrounding Nam Koo Terrace, which is also owned by the developer, into open space for public use.
My reply to the three-part question raised by Hon Tanya Chan is as follows:
(1) According to the planning application approved by the Town Planning Board (TPB) in 1994, the TPB did not include the surrender of the 196-206 Queen's Road East site as a planning condition in its approval, but advised the applicant to negotiate with the Government on the land to be surrendered to the Government. Subsequently, the Government has been processing the land exchange application on the basis of the boundary of application site of the planning application, i.e. not including the 196-206 Queen's Road East site. The project development blueprint published by the developer in 2004, as mentioned by Hon Tanya Chan, had not been endorsed by the TPB.
In fact, back in 1981, the TPB approved a planning application which provided for the development of an office building at the 196-206 Queen's Road East site. Although the site was subsequently rezoned to "Open Space" ("O") on the Wan Chai Outline Zoning Plan, such rezoning does not affect the office development which had already been granted planning permission.
Since the construction of the building, as the lot is zoned "O", the developer has submitted eight planning applications to change the use of ground floor to 10/F and 20/F to 29/F to shops and service/restaurant use. Such applications have all been approved.
As regards the dancing school uses raised by Hon Tanya Chan, the Administration has looked into the case and the developer has indicated that they have misunderstood it as Column 1 use under "O" in the outline zoning plan which include "Education", and hence has not sought prior permission. The developer is now discussing with the Planning Department on the submission of a rezoning application, requesting rezoning the 196-206 Queen's Road East site from "O" to "Commercial" to reflect the completed development.
(2) Over the past half year, the Government and the developer focused on the discussion on the reduction of development intensity of the project. We will reactivate the discussion on land exchange matters based on the revised scheme and the established land policy in due course.
(3) Regarding the updated TIA report in respect of the 1994 approved scheme and its road improvement works submitted by the developer to TD, TD had examined the report in detail and had furnished comments to as well as requested further information from the developer. At this stage, TD has not yet accepted the updated TIA report.
The developer will follow up with TD on the TIA report and road improvement works in the context of the new revised scheme of the Hopewell Centre II project. The road improvement works is one of the planning conditions of the then TPB approval, and hence the whole project, including the land exchange arrangement, could only be effected after the road improvement works have been authorized.
Ends/Wednesday, November 19, 2008
Issued at HKT 14:53