Non-in-situ land exchange for No. 23 Coombe Road approved by Executive Council

The Chief Executive in Council today (March 27) approved a non-in-situ land exchange with the private owner of No. 23 Coombe Road in order to preserve the historic building for revitalisation and adaptive re-use.

The historic building at No. 23 Coombe Road was accorded Grade 1 status by the Antiquities Advisory Board in 2011. Grade 1 historic buildings are "buildings of outstanding merit, which every effort should be made to preserve if possible". Under the approved land exchange, the owner will surrender the building at No. 23 Coombe Road and the entire site to the Government for preservation and revitalisation, while the Government will grant simultaneously a nearby lot of the same size to the owner for private residential development.

A spokesperson for the Development Bureau said that under the heritage conservation policy promulgated in 2007, the Government recognises the need for economic incentives to encourage and assist private owners to preserve historic buildings in their ownership. In implementing this policy, the aim is to strike a proper balance between preservation of historic buildings and respect for private property rights.

As far as the offer of land exchange is concerned, under the prevailing policy, it is applicable to both monuments and Grade 1 historic buildings. The new lot to be granted to the owner is a piece of government land opposite the existing lot across Coombe Road to the south. It is about 1 100 square metres in size, which is the same as the existing lot. The new lot is also subject to similar development parameters as those previously applicable to the existing lot.
"We had considered various economic incentives, including in-situ land exchange and transfer of unused development rights, but these options were found infeasible. Eventually, following the principle for non-in-situ land exchange stipulated by the Government, the owner considered several replacement sites, and both parties reached consensus to adopt the present non-in-situ land exchange arrangement.

"Under the arrangement, besides paying full market value premium for the land exchange in accordance with the established policy, the owner is required to surrender to the Government the building at No. 23 Coombe Road in a condition satisfactory to the Antiquities and Monuments Office," the spokesperson said.

At its meeting today, the Executive Council also approved amendments to the Peak Area Outline Zoning Plan, which include rezoning the new lot proposed to be granted to the owner from "Green Belt" to "Residential (Group C)6" to facilitate the implementation of the preservation option. The rezoning has gone through the proper town planning process under the Town Planning Ordinance.

Built in 1887, the building at No. 23 Coombe Road is a private residence with its first owner being John Joseph Francis, who was prominent in civic affairs in a number of respects, in particular his efforts in investigating the issue of mui-tsai and in drawing up the rules for enacting the formation of the Po Leung Kuk Incorporation Ordinance to offer protection for women and girls. Moreover, the building is one of the oldest surviving European houses on the Peak. It was built using coolies' labour, as the Peak Tramway was not yet opened at that time. After No. 23 Coombe Road is surrendered to the Government, the Government plans to revitalise it and put it to adaptive re-use for the public.
Ends/Tuesday, March 27, 2018
Issued at HKT 16:45