Grannie Green Revivial

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Chp 131, Tsz Shan Monastery – Forty years champion for the environment

Tsz Shan Monastery

A Monastery seemed an unlikely developer to be opposed by green groups, so when CA and local residents in Tai Po objected to the Tsz Shan Monastery project in Tung Tsz in May 2005, it was not the temple or the planned giant Buddha which CA found fault with. It was, rather, the huge car park with 140 parking space for 140 cars and 18 coaches which CA found problematic. That amounted to a capacity for 2,000 people. The development itself would cover 4.68 hectares with a building area of 5,000 square metres, a scale rather like a mini-theme park rather than a place for spiritual meditation.

The highlight of the new Monastery structure would be a 76 meter high “Guan Yin Statue”. Questions were raised as to whether this would spoil the skyline and produce light flooding, creating unacceptable impact to the tranquil rural environment. In addition, 452 trees would be felled to form land for the construction.

As the application was deferred by the Town Planning Board, the Association responded to a request by the Monastery to meet and discuss the application. This took place on 3 November 2005, at which CA was shocked to be informed that the original plan for the car park had been only one-third of the scale of the final proposal, and the applicant had amended its plan only at the request of Transport Department for the purpose of providing for the “worse case scenario”.

CA wrote to the Town Planning Board objecting to Transport Department’s requirement for more transport facilities, especially when it had been made very clear, both in the planning intention and by the applicant itself, that the proposed Tsz Shan Monastery was not meant for large numbers of visitors. Peak demand during festivals times should be dealt with through crowd control and special arrangement of public transport; a huge car park in rural Tai Po would simply be a mistake.

True to the spirit of a caring religious institution, the Monastery agreed to scale down the parking facilities to one-third of the proposal, to comprise 47 private car parking spaces, 6 parking spaces for coaches, 5 parking spaces for motorbikes, 3 parking spaces for mini-buses, 3 parking spaces for taxies and 2 cargo loading areas for trucks. A promise was also made to minimize the environmental impacts of the new structure.

All would have been well, except that Transport Department objected to the revised, scaled-down proposal and insisted on a large-scale car park. On 2 June 2006, the Rural and New Town Planning Committee of the Town Planning Board approved the project with, regrettably, the big car park as proposed by Transport Department.

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August 20, 2015 - Posted by | Dr WK Chan book

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