While there has been a lot of back slapping and media coverage with regard to heritage preservation in Central and WanChai, well loved historic sites on Kowloon are being raped and pillaged.
An appalling example is the proposed redevelopment of the tranquil green slope and the one hundred year old wall in front of Saint Andrew's Church at 138 Nathan Road into a religious centre. This is the only stretch of street in TST that retains its original appearance. It also fronts a GIC compound that includes The Hong Kong Observatory and the Former Kowloon British School, both listed monuments. St. Andrew's is a graded historic building.
For details on the development check out the brochure in English and Chinese( http://www.standrews.org.hk/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=234&Itemid=218) .The hillside will be completely gutted and the old wall replaced with a glass frontage topped by a faux Disney colonnade.
When I read the news in SCMP, see attached, I went to St. Andrews the following Sunday and stood by the arched entrance with some homemade signs 'Shame on the Church', 'Protect our historic wall'. English only as I did not have time to get a translation.
After a while the Aussie vicar, who I have been told is the instigator of the development plan, came down. Quite sarcastic, 'So we have our first protester', he then warned that he could call the police!Excuse me; I am a long time TST resident standing on the public pavement in the pouring rain exercising freedom of speech.
I then realized that a lot of people were arriving by car, so I moved to the vehicle entrance. My protest got a mixed reception. Some of the parishioners are really for the development, some against. A few asked to sign my petition but I had not prepared one. Passing local residents and tourists were unanimously against the idea.
Many of the congregation who spoke with me says SCMP has got the story wrong. They maintain that the glass will bring light to the dark pavement. If we need more light we can install more street lights. I asked them 'then you are not going to knock down the wall. Yes we are!!! I was given a copy of the church's news sheet, see attached.
The plan is worse than SCMP indicated. It is obvious that there is no heritage element. The arched entrance will be lower than the new wall, green slope and trees gone, and topped by a Disney colonnade. Compare their illustration with SCMP photo. The wall in fact cannot be rebuilt as it is 'a rubble wall with large boulders'.The plans have been approved by the Buildings Department after consultation with other departments such as AMO, CFH and LCSD.
The head of the Antiquities and Monuments Office and Commissioner for Heritage should resign.AMO next door is a listed heritage site and the wall is part of a continuous structure. Its integrity will be destroyed. BD approval required the go ahead from AMO that expressed appreciation and asked for a few minor changes only even though its work includes
v) Assessing and evaluating the impact of development projects on heritage sites.
To preserve the archaeological and built heritage of Hong Kong and to promote the awareness and appreciation of, respect for and commitment to preservation of such cultural legacy through research,education and publicity.
To protect and conserve Hong Kong's archaeological and built heritage.
AMO and CFH are being paid to PROTECT our heritage. It is their duty to counter plans that permanently destroy our heritage with every obstacle possible. Instead they have done nothing to delay approval and let the public know what the church is up to.LCSD recently blocked a proposal by the MTR to build an additional exit that would have given direct access to Kowloon Park on the excuse that it might affect the old valuable trees on the other side of the street. However it raises no objections to the removal of old trees on the slope and the damage that extensive excavation and the presence of heavy machinery will wreck on the old and valuable trees in front of St. Andrew's.
The question of traffic problems has been completely ignored. St.Andrew's has 22 parking spaces only and during services allows vehicles to park around the church. The plans include an auditorium for 850 and there is mention of disabled and school groups yet there is no provision to meet the requirements for parking as stipulated in Parking Standards for Community Facilities, see attached.
What is more access lies between two old and valuable trees, across the footpath and up a narrow lane. This GIC site is the only place on the entire Nathan Road that has vehicular access. The audience for the auditorium will arrive at the same time. This will put pedestrians in danger and create tail backs that will block Hillwood Road and create dangerous traffic conditions on Nathan Road, where nostopping is allowed. Nearby streets are already gridlocked as theparking facilities at The One cannot cope with the demand for parking spaces.
The congregation feels that it has done its bit for the community by funding the upkeep of the church for over one hundred years. However it will certainly have benefited from nominal ground rent and other charges over the years. What is more this is a UNESCO listed heritage siteand (http://www.unescobkk.org/index.php?id=4124)I have checked out the COE ordinance but conditions do not cover redevelopment; Church of England Trust Ordinance Cap 1014(http://www.legislation.gov.hk/blis_pdf.nsf/6799165D2FEE3FA94825755E0033E532/D4CCD80E7899C971482575EF0021B19F?OpenDocument&bt=0)and Chater Endowment Cap 1050(http://www.legislation.gov.hk/blis_pdf.nsf/6799165D2FEE3FA94825755E0033E532/090B937B3F0025B7482575EF0023183C/$FILE/CAP_1050_e_b5.pdf)
Checked OZP(http://www.ozp.tpb.gov.hk/pdf/s_k1_25_e.pdf),St. Andrews is zoned GIC so the church cannot just steam in and do whatever it likes. It should go through the Town Planning, particularly as the plan includes a shop and this requires authorization. The proposed hall is just a shop front to sell religion to passing mainlanders.
GIC is for the benefit of all the community, brings advantages in the form of dirt cheap land in the middle of the city but also confers obligations.
Apart from information on the architect, I am waiting for answers to the following questions raised with government departments:
- This site is zoned GIC, why have the plans not gone through Town Planning Board so that interested parties can raise objections.
- What is the plot ratio for the site and what is the square footage of the existing buildings
- What is the square footage of the proposed development?
- Where can interested parties view the lease conditions?
- When will the lease be next reviewed?
- It is obvious from the deteriorating condition of the trees at the Marine Police HQ/Heritage 1881 site that the conditions imposed with regard to protection of old trees is not adequate. Have the regulations been updated and strengthened with regard to this plan?
- Is YTM DC doing anything to protect YTM heritage? Central and Wanchai DCs are active in promoting preservation in their districts.
If the community does not strongly protest this plan we will lose yet another part of our heritage, not to mention a tourist attraction.Any development rights the church has can be transferred to another area where it can build its facilities with adequate parking and room for additional expansion if the need arises.
Note the vicar's lies in SCMP letter of 24 July attached to Parking Standards