Building heritage integrated into town planning

The Government aims to integrate Hong Kong's building and cultural heritage into new towns, the Acting Secretary for Planning and Lands, Mr Patrick Lau Lai-chiu said.

"Within and near our proposed new towns in the New Territories, like Fanling North and Hung Shui Kiu, there are many sites of great historical value, such as walled villages, ancient Chinese study halls and ancestral halls," Mr Lau said.

The Government will build good pedestrian connections to link up these heritage trails, such as the Lung Yeuk Tau and Ping Shan Heritage Trails to facilitate visits by local residents and tourists, he told the participants of a conference organised by the Hong Kong Institute of Surveyors today (Saturday).

In addition to planning new strategic growth areas which are to be found largely in the New Territories, the Government is also mapping out a new urban renewal strategy which will transform the existing urban areas.

Despite what some may think about the loss of developers' interest for redeveloping the older parts of the urban areas, there are opportunities for us to make better use of the existing land resources and to rejuvenate some heritage buildings, he said.

"Preserving and maintaining the heritage features not only accords with the objective of sustainable development but also facilitates the retention of the local characteristics of the different districts, adds interest and variety to our urban fabric and helps promote tourism."

In the Urban Renewal Authority Bill put to the Legislative Council for consideration, preservation of buildings of historical, cultural and architectural interest in urban renewal areas has been made one of the statutory responsibilities of the proposed Urban Renewal Authority.

Mr Lau cited examples of heritage buildings rehabilitated into popular touristic spots, such as the former Stanley Police Station and the Western Market, which are turned into a restaurant and a shopping arcade respectively.

The Government has been receiving more and more proposals from within the Government, from the Land Development Corporation and the private sector to give a new life to Hong Kong's older buildings, he said.

"For example, we are undertaking a study of the use to which the former Tsim Sha Tsui Marine Police Headquarters (built in 1884) can be put."

We expect the results of this study to be available in the middle of this year, he said.

Recent proposals have been put forward suggesting that the Government's planning and building control mechanism should be reviewed to allow the transfer of plot ratio from the site of the building to be preserved to other sites within the same district.

"We are now considering the practical implications of such proposals," Mr Lau said.

"The Government is prepared to give full support to assist in preservation and maintenance of both heritage features and other existing buildings," he said.

"We are currently reviewing the Buildings Ordinance and Regulations to help develop 'green' buildings in new developments and redevelopments, and we are formulating a scheme to help maintain the existing stocks of buildings.

"We will create more room for building professionals to design and build quality homes, to preserve existing buildings stocks and to conserve heritage with imagination and skills," Mr Lau said.

End/Saturday, March 4, 2000