27th September 2013
Hotel to be Built on Lugard Road Near Hong Kong Trial – Country Park Becomes Victim of “Development”
Can you imagine driving on Hong Kong Trail?
Around a dozen of environment concern groups organised an activity “Let’s Walk” this Sunday in protest again Hong Kong SAR Government’s plan to develop country parks. However, many developers are all ready for making sure that they will get a slice of the profit from developing country parks by planning all sorts of property projects surrounding the country parks. Besides the application for building over a hundred houses in Hoi Ha Wan in Sai Kung, the Town Planning Board (TPB) has already approved the application to convert a residential building on Section 1 of Hong Kong Trail , 27 Lugard Road, into a hotel. Around mid-September, Hong Kong Trail was ranked one of the top 10 trails in the world by Lonely Planet. When the hotel is completed, traffic in the area will be non stop throughout the day, and there will be no space for people to enjoy their walks. Paul Chan Mo-po, Secretary for Development, gave green light to this application.
This is one of the widest sections of Lugard Road, which just fits a small vehicle
Lugard Road is the beginning of Section 1 of Hong Kong Trail. Walking along the trail, one can enjoy the stunning views of the Victoria Harbour, Hong Kong Island and Kowloon Peninsular. Over a million of people venture out on Lugard Road every year. Recently, however, the TPB granted a conditional approval to property developers to convert the Grade II historic house, the Edwardian style building is over a hundred years old located only 800m away from the start of Section 1 of Hong Kong Trail (27 Lugard Road), into a hotel with 17 rooms. Although 96% of public opinions and 14 members of the Central and Western District Council objected the hotel proposal during the consultation period, the plan still went ahead. Although the hotel will not be situated inside the country park, but the area surrounding the hotel is within Pok Fu Lam Country Park, pollution created during the construction period and after the opening of the hotel will directly impact the country park’s environment. The TPB also allows the hotel’s shuttle buses to travel on Lugard Road, which is part of the Hong Kong Trail, which will definitely affect the usability of the Hong Kong Trail.
The hisotirc house to be converted into hotel, located on 27 Lugard Road
27 Lugard Road was sold to Crown Empire Limited in January this year for US$48 million. After the purchase was completed, the new owner immediately submitted its rebuilding plan. It applied to increase the plot ratio of the land and convert the house and build two additional villa style hotels with a total of 17 rooms. Dr Joseph Yao Ki-fu, who has been living in the house for 12 years, said on 25th September during an interview that Lugard Road does not have the capacity for hotel use. Dr Yao said that him and his family have a total of four driving licenses issued by the Transport Department, but in respect to the pedestrians’ rights to use the road they will only drive through the road before 7am and after 7pm. Dr Yao also said that the width of the road between The Peak Galleria and 27 Lugard Road is between 1.8m and 3.4m, combined with over 30 turns, a car can just squeeze pass even if passerby on the road move aside. If someone walks alone with a stroller or a car breaks down on the road, the entire road will be blocked. With limited lighting facilities, the road is particularly dark and one must drive with extreme cautions. Dr Yao said that if the house is converted into a hotel, there will surely be more traffic and could impose dangers on pedestrians.
According to the Traffic Impact Assessment report submitted by the developer to the TPB, on public holidays around 700 to 800 people use Lugard Road every hour. The developer suggested to limit the number of shuttles at twice per hour (back and forth), and set no driving periods: weekdays: 9am-12 noon and 1pm – 6pm; public holiday: 11am-1pm, 2pm-4pm. Dr Yao, however, said the report was based on data collected during winter, number of visitors will definitely be lower than during summer to autumn. Yao also said that even after dusk, there are still plenty of visitors in that area, and many schools will have their annual school trips in Hong Kong Trail during autumn. Besides school trips, there are also many large scale activities held along Hong Kong Trail. Yao said that there were activities held on over 60 days in the last year he was living in the house. None of these were mentioned at all in the report submitted by the developer.
The road from Lugard Road to the house is government land. When the developer was applying to convert the house into a hotel, the Civil Engineering and Development Department was coincidentally conducting slope maintenance project. Yao said that his family pays US$26,000 a year to the government to rent this road and has to bear the entire cost of slop maintenance every year.
None of the government departments involved in the approval process of this plan objected the proposal, including the Transport Department and Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (which manages country parks). Paul Chan Mo-po’s Development Bureau and Antiquities and Monuments Office even supported the plan. According to Apple Daily‘s recent report, the project was initiated by the company owned by Tony Yau Tang-tit, younger brother of Edward Yau Tang-wah, Director of Office of the Chief Executive of Hong Kong. The newspaper also questioned if the TPB and other government departments were biased based on Yau’s connections and background and gave him unfair advantages. As early as 2009, Tony Yau was already been accused of having “supernatural power” of knowing the government would relax the restriction on converting industrial buildings into hotels and began to purchas old industrial buildings before the policy was announced.
The house is around 800m away from The Peak Galleria, located at the beginning of the first section of Hong Kong Trail and surrounded by Pok Fu Lam Country Park