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Chp 109, Central Police Station Compound – Forty years champion for the environment

Central Police Station Compound

The former Central Police Station, former Victoria Prison and the former Central Magistracy is one of the oldest heritage compound with the rich Victorian, Edwardian and Oriental architectural styles. In 1995, all the buildings including the ground inside the Site were declared monuments under the Antiquities and Monuments Ordinance.

The Government decided in April 2003 to develop the site for heritage tourism. The tender was originally scheduled for early 2004, but was deferred due to public opposition initiated by CA and the Hong Kong Institute of Architects (HKIA). Initially, the objection was against the high weighting given to land premium – reportedly 40% – potentially favouring developments which put profit before heritage.

Together with the Hong Kong People’s Council for Sustainable Development and the Department of Architecture of the Chinese University, CA and HKIA formed the Central Police Station Heritage Taskforce with the objective of encouraging public participation in the envisioning, planning and monitoring of the project, and to advocate a heritage-focussed tendering process. Later the Taskforce was joined by other civil society groups.

As a first step, the Taskforce organised a Roundtable discussion on 25 September 2004 at the historic building at 28 Kennedy Road, then the venue of the Hong Kong Design Centre. More than 40 people including Legislators, district councilors, representatives of cultural and art organizations, government officials and professionals attended. The consensus emerging from the Roundtable was that the Government should review the tendering and assessment mechanism comprehensively. The future uses of the heritage should be open for public consultation through visits, open days and workshops.

With the views gathered from the Roundtable, the Taskforce developed a Citizen-Envisioned Participatory Assessment Model (CEPAM) which was submitted to the Chief Executive Mr CH Tung on 11 October 2004. The key to CEPAM is to adopt the “Heritage First” principle and the internationally recognised “China Principles” (the Principles for the Conservation of Heritage Sites in China adopted in 2000 by the State Administration of Cultural Heritage of the Chinese Central Government) in heritage preservation. According to the CEPAM model, the tendering would be split into a pre-qualification stage and a tendering stage. Only proposals satisfying both minimum preservation requirements and financial sustainability would proceed to the second stage, where the tenders would be assessed based on a set of criteria which emphasised heritage management, design merits and public enjoyment, with economic and tourism benefits carrying 20% of the weighting. The assessment should be undertaken by a multi-stakeholder expert panel. Public engagement was also emphasised at the planning, assessment and implementation stages.

The campaign was further strengthened in November 2004 by a signature campaign coordinated by CA calling upon the government to suspend the tendering process, open the CPS compound to the public, and show respect for Hong Kong history.

The campaign bore fruit. With the cooperation of the then Tourism Commissioner Eva Cheng, CA, HKIA and the Central and Western District Council jointly organized Open Days for the Central Police Station Heritage Compound in January and February 2005. CA explained the pros and cons of different models of conserving the Compound, including the CEPAM model developed by the Taskforce, to the visitors through a set of exhibition boards displayed in Court no. 2 of the Former Central Magistracy. The Government decided to make the Open Days part of a consultation process to last until the end of May 2005.

On 6 March 2005, CA, HKIA and the Central and Western District Council took the Open Day to another level by organizing a Heritage Citizen Envisioning Day with guided tours, open seminar and forum, and design charrettes. With funding from the District Council, CA organized an oral history research headed by historical researcher Dr Hans Yeung. The report of the envisioning exercise was submitted to the Chief Executive in August 2005. The two most significant findings were:

  • There is a strong community view that the preservation of “historical ambience” and “cultural values” are the most important factors in any reuse plan for the Compound.
  • There is much higher public trust on charitable non-governmental organisations or the government to take charge of the development and operation of the site, than to leave the matter in the hands of private developers.

In the letter to the Chief Executive CA also suggested that as a priority a Statement of Cultural Significance and a Sustainable Reuse and Conservation Plan be formulated, and that the Government seek to put the Compound in the Tentative List of UNESCO Heritage Sites.

 

Government did acquiesce by not proceeding with the tender. Some further contention continued over a specific building in the Compound, namely, the F Hall of Victoria Prison. The F Hall was not among the buildings to be preserved as the government considered that it had less heritage value, but that was contested by the Taskforce.

 

For some time there seemed no progress on the development, until the Hong Kong Jockey Club announced in October 2007 that it had engaged reputed international architects Herzog & de Meuron to develop a design for the re-use and revitalization of the Central Police Station Compound. The Club then conducted a six-month public consultation and submitted its findings to the government in May 2008.

On 15 July 2008, the government announced that it had decided to join hands with the Hong Kong Jockey Club to conserve and revitalize the Central Police Station Compound. A new Conservation Master Plan had been drawn up to guide the conservation aspects of the development. The design would also be adjusted after taking consideration of the views from the public consultation. By end-2008 the final design has yet to be unveiled.

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July 28, 2015 - Posted by | Dr WK Chan book

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