Grannie Green Revivial

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Chp 73, Woodside – Forty years champion for the environment

Woodside

Woodside is a red-brick, two-storey house in Quarry Bay near Tai Tam Country Park (Quarry Bay Extension). Built in 1917 by the Swire company as quarters for the deputy manager of the Tai Koo Sugar Refinery, the house is now under government ownership and is one of the rare remaining early-20th century civilian residential houses in Hong Kong. The woodland around Woodside is an urban oasis enjoyed by nearby residents. However, as a result of the housing policy of the HKSAR Chief Executive Mr Tung Chee Hwa, the area was designated residential use and earmarked for development into 1,880 flats under the Home Ownership Scheme. For the development to go ahead, Woodside would need to be demolished and the woodland destroyed despite it being home to protected species of bats and squirrels and a popular site for morning walkers and joggers.

CA wrote to Rosanna Wong, Chairman of the Housing Authority on 9 January 1998 expressing concern over the HOS scheme and stressing the ecological and heritage significance of Woodside and the surrounding woodland. Housing Authorities’ reply came a month later confirming the development but refusing to preserve the building or the environment, stating that “the provision of additional public housing in this case would outweigh the impact on the urban environment”.

Together with the Eastern District residents, CA led a campaign to save Woodside and the woodland, masterminded by the then General Secretary Lister Cheung. Given that the government’s plan was drawn up in the heyday of the “85,000” housing policy, CA’s campaign had seemed a lost cause. However, the movement gathered momentum throughout 1998 with the formation, facilitated by CA, of local group Eastern Green Action 東區绿色行動.

Citizen forums and signature campaigns ensued, but it was CA’s diligence in pursuing the due process which proved critical. On 24 June 1998 CA wrote to the Secretary for Transport Ng objecting to the extension of Greig Road and realignment of Mount Parker Road, a project in preparation for the housing scheme. On 14 July, armed with 20,000 signatures and 500 letters in support, a rezoning request was submitted to the Town Planning Board asking that the area be turned into Greenbelt. A green ribbon campaign was held on 2 August, an especially appealing act with the community mobilized to tie green ribbons around the trees. This was followed by an open letter to the Chief Executive and the Executive Council on 4 August. Another letter to the Antiquities Advisory Board on 20 August asked for Woodside to be declared a monument.

At its meeting on 25 September 1998, the Town Planning Board acceded to CA’s request and changed the zoning accordingly to Greenbelt, thus saving Woodside and the woodland. Later the house was given Grade II historical building status by the Antiquities Advisory Board.

On 11 October 1998, the “Run for Woodside” 為林邊跑步 activity originally planned as a protest rally for Woodside, turned into a celebratory run. The activity was supported by legislator Martin Lee QC, Chairman of the Environment Campaign Committee Mr Ronnie Wong, and Eastern District Councillor Lai Chi Keung (黎志強) who had been a particularly staunch supporter of the campaign.

In 1999, CA then joined force with the Eastern District Council to turn the Quarry Park section of Mount Parker Road into the Eastern Green Trail, the third such urban green trail established by the Association.

Woodside is now a natural resources centre of the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department. In 2003, in the course of developing the resources centre, CA successfully persuaded AFCD to include historical heritage education elements in the centre.

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June 19, 2015 - Posted by | Dr WK Chan book

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