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Old November 26th, 2008, 09:04 AM   #141
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Hopewell compromise shows way forward
20 November 2008
South China Morning Post

Hong Kong developers are not renowned for having a give-and-take attitude towards their projects. Hopewell Holdings' co-founder and chairman, Sir Gordon Wu Ying-sheung, is especially passionate when it comes to his firm's ideas. The announcement yesterday that the company had decided to give in to decades of community pressure and drastically reduce the size of its proposed "Mega Tower" complex in Wan Chai was, therefore, a surprise. Such a seismic shift in thinking is what is required if our city is to develop in a sustainable manner; we applaud the decision.

Such an outcome was unthinkable six months ago when Development Secretary Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor began negotiating with Hopewell. Sir Gordon proposed the Mega Tower 30 years ago when the company started acquiring land in the area. The firm stuck doggedly to the design despite increasingly vocal opposition from residents complaining that views and air flow would be blocked and that increases in traffic in the area, particularly along Kennedy Road, would be unbearably disruptive. There were objections that the height of the structure would disrupt the skyline of Hong Kong Island by extending beyond the ridge line of background hills. Rather than shelving the proposal, the company took advantage of a town planning loophole and kept it active by submitting slightly modified designs every two years.

In making the announcement, Sir Gordon's son, Thomas Jefferson Wu, denied government pressure was the reason for the turnaround. He contended Hopewell had decided to listen to public opinion; its move, he said, was a practical way forward. It is good that the company has seen reason and decided to meet most of the demands of critics. Mrs Lam must similarly be commended for her part in resolving the dispute in so favourable a manner.

The tower brings benefits to Hong Kong. Amid so much concern about the economic downturn, it is the type of infrastructure project we need to help soften the blow. Hopewell will spend HK$5 billion bringing it to fruition and when completed in 2015, if work starts next year as planned, 4,000 jobs will be created. About 1,500 workers will be needed to build it. It will further enhance a part of Wan Chai that Hopewell revitalised by siting its headquarters there in 1980.

Despite Hopewell's announcement, there remain some doubts about the proposal. Town Planning Board approval may yet be needed; a legal opinion is being sought. Some residents are still not convinced and want to view detailed plans. A traffic flow study has yet to be carried out. But Hopewell has shown it is willing to compromise. While the balance that the developer hopes to strike may not meet the expectations of some of its opponents, it is to be hoped that their remaining differences can be quickly and smoothly dealt with. A sensible solution that would serve as a possible lesson to other developers and community groups is what Hong Kong needs to move the city forward.
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Old November 26th, 2008, 11:08 AM   #142
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Gov't Press Release:
LCQ1: Hopewell Centre II
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Old November 27th, 2008, 04:50 AM   #143
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Opinion : What do you think of the revised Mega Tower project?
27 November 2008
South China Morning Post

I understand that Secretary for Development Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor denied that the scaling back of the Mega Tower project in Wan Chai was due to governmental pressure.

Mrs Lam is being too modest in ascribing her mediation role between the public outcry and the developer's ambitions.

For four years public objection to this scheme was met with bureaucratic obduracy and persistent rhetoric on the status of the 1994 scheme, and it was only after Mrs Lam's appointment that there were the first signs that the government was actually listening.

This case has proved that the planning system is incapable of controlling major developers, and, in spite of Mrs Lam's modesty, I believe top-level bureau influence has played a part.

However, the deal will not be complete until it is signed and, without detracting from Hopewell Holdings' pragmatism, it is still essential to protect the public interest.

It is necessary that all the detailed settlements are agreed by the statutory body, the Town Planning Board.

Good governance requires more than expediency, and as Mrs Lam was a former chairman of the Town Planning Board she should understand the importance of this legitimising step.

Frank Lee, Mid-Levels
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Old November 27th, 2008, 04:03 PM   #144
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合和二期換地惹質疑
27/11/2008


【本報訊】港府與合和集團雖就合和二期發展項目取得共識,但立法會議員對集團以逾五千平方米私人土地換取項目內大部分為斜坡的政府土地表示質疑,批評換地過程不公開,難釋外界認為事件或涉利益輸送之疑。發展局局長林鄭月娥強調,發展商與政府換地亦須補地價,並稱事件「經得起廉政公署考驗」。

過程未公開
民主黨何俊仁質疑,如合和二期般的換地計劃,發展商都不用經公開招標或競投就可獲得政府批地,即使要補地價以反映市值,但因過程不公開,或會予人利益輸送的感覺,當局應重新檢討有關政策。公民起動何秀蘭亦要求,當局應公開計算補地價的方法,以杜絕利益輸送。

林鄭月娥強調合和二期項目內的政府用地都是斜坡,合和以逾五千平方米的私人土地來換取,有關土地不適宜公開拍賣,或以分割式處理,她強調政府事前有作出估值,經得起廉署考驗。地政總署會聽取居民意見,以及在完成道路交通改善計劃,才落實原址換地。

此外,換地條件包括保育樹木條款,合和早前亦已表示投入二千萬元保育及移植樹木。而城規會於九四年批出合和二期計劃時,亦要求合和提交園景美化計劃及砍伐樹木報告,並需令規劃署署長或城規會滿意,合和在得到政府書面同意前,不可移走或干擾地盤上的樹木。
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Old November 28th, 2008, 11:39 AM   #145
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Collusion claims on Hopewell tower rejected
27 November 2008
Hong Kong Standard

Officials insist the land transfer of Hopewell Center II will stand up to anti- corruption scrutiny, despite claims by lawmakers that the project is another example of collusion between big business and government.

Responding to questions raised by Frontier legislator Cyd Ho Sau-lan, Secretary for Development Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor denied claims that the transfer of 4,000 square meters of public land for the scaled-down hotel development, formerly known as MegaTower, would be to the advantage of the developer.

On premium payment, Lam said: ``We do have a comprehensive mechanism which stands up to scrutiny by the Independent Commission Against Corruption.'' Hopewell Holdings has applied to the Lands Department for an ``in-situ exchange,'' which will see 5,000 square meters of privately held land surrendered in exchange for the whole 9,000-square- meter plot.

The public land being surrendered is mainly made up of slopes so compensation paid by the developer will depend on market valuations by surveyors who will take into account changes in land values before and after the development's completion.

Hopewell is also pledging HK$20 million for a tree conservation project in which 650 trees will be added to the existing 100.

Although Lam said public views would be taken into account in the Lands Department's scrutiny of the transfer, some legislators were unconvinced. Democratic Party lawmaker Kam Nai- wai said: ``This is an excuse. People get the impression this is an excuse for government-developer collusion.

``The secretary said there is an objective and fair mechanism, but if you do not engage in tendering and public auction how can you ensure fairness in the process?'' he asked.

Fellow Democrat Albert Ho Chun- yan said: ``In the absence of a tendering exercise, simply evaluating the market value may not be able to reflect fully the situation and the aspirations for land matters to be handled in a fair and transparent manner.''

He also called for a review of land exchange regulations and for public consultation. Responding to whether the scope of traffic assessments should be extended beyond Kennedy Road and Queen's Road East to see how an extra 500 cars would impact traffic to and from Happy Valley and the Cross-Harbour Tunnel, Lam said analysis would be conducted.
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Old December 1st, 2008, 05:05 AM   #146
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Residents oppose Hopewell bid to rezone plaza for commercial use
1 December 2008
South China Morning Post

Wan Chai residents say the government will make a big blunder if it allows the QRE Plaza site in Queen's Road East to be rezoned for commercial use.

The site is at present zoned open space, despite the fact that it includes restaurants, shops and a dancing school.

It is owned by Hopewell Holdings and was originally earmarked for office building development in 1981.

In 1994, it was rezoned for open-space land use by the Town Planning Board. But Hopewell recently asked the board to rezone the QRE Plaza site for commercial use.

Kennedy Road Protection Group, a group of concerned Wan Chai residents, claims that the 1994 rezoning was part of a land-exchange scheme between the government and Hopewell Holdings.

They say the developer at that time was seeking approval to build a 93-storey hotel skyscraper - Hopewell Mega Tower.

The residents say the government and Hopewell Holdings struck a deal in 1994 that allowed Hopewell to develop the 93-storey Mega Tower in exchange for the zoning of the QRE Plaza site as open space, and that is the way it should stay despite the cut in the size of the Mega Tower.

"The developer should not be allowed to develop both the Mega Tower and the QRE Plaza," said Sally Ho Yuen-ping, spokeswoman for the resident group.

But Secretary for Development Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor said in Legco that the board had not included the QRE site in any deal relating to construction of the Mega Tower. "Although the site was subsequently rezoned to open space, such rezoning does not affect the office development which had already been granted planning permission."

That means, according to the government, Hopewell can still build an office tower on the QRE Plaza site.

Ms Ho accused the government of using the rezoning procedures to rationalise mistakes it had made by allowing businesses in an area zoned for open-space land use.

Legislator Tanya Chan, who has been helping the residents, urged the board to reject the latest rezoning request from Hopewell.

Conservationist Katty Law Ngar-ning said she would file a request to the Ombudsman for a review of the Development Bureau's handling of the zoning issue.
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Old December 1st, 2008, 02:20 PM   #147
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准建QRE政府罔顧公眾利益
01/12/2008

【本報訊】一批灣仔堅尼地道居民質疑合和QRE Plaza的土地原規劃是休憩用地,但竟然興建了寫字樓,批評港府將合和利益凌駕公眾利益,而城市規劃委員會則為橡皮圖章亂批修改土地用途申請。居民稍後會在合和中心前收集街坊反對新規劃的簽名,並向申訴專員公署申訴。

休憩用地改商業地帶
居民代表何婉屏表示,位於皇后大道東的QRE Plaza原本為住宅地,合和在八一年獲准建商業大廈,但到一九九四年,合和為了興建Mega Tower,願意交出該地給港府轉作休憩用地,同年完成該地段的用途修訂。

不過,去年在該幅修訂為休憩用途的土地上卻有QRE Plaza落成,何婉屏指區內居民對此大為不滿,認為這是港府將合和利益凌駕了公眾利益,QRE Plaza落成後,如今合和又再向城規會申請將QRE Plaza所處土地,由休憩用地改劃為商業地帶,變相將QRE Plaza合法化。

立法會議員何秀蘭稱,「若城規會批准合和申請,即是出爾反爾,甘願做橡皮圖章,亦反映整個城規制度崩潰,分區計劃大綱圖也是廢的!」

另一位議員陳淑莊則稱,她曾去信港府要求解釋,但未有回覆。
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Old December 2nd, 2008, 02:26 AM   #148
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Demand for scrutiny of Hopewell II
1 December 2008
Hong Kong Standard

Residents and legislators are calling on the Town Planning Board to scrutinize amended plans for Hopewell Centre II in an attempt to allay fears of traffic congestion and protect public parks.

Man Yuen Garden resident Roger Emmerton said that is essential in view of all the controversy surrounding the development.

``It's a wonder why the amendments are not being sent back to the Town Planning Board, which is a relatively short process,'' Emmerton said.

A bid to end the more than 30-year- struggle by Hopewell chairman Gordon Wu Ying-sheung to have his Mega Tower cum-Hopewell Centre II realized has taken a giant step forward with a recent announcement that the density of the development will be reduced.

But a revelation by Secretary for Development Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor that the changes will likely bypass the planning board has irked people living nearby.

Even before work may start, a controversial land exchange agreement remains to be completed and those living in the area are disturbed by its lack of transparency.

Emmerton said 10 different incarnations of the Hopewell proposals have at different times tried to leverage five separate plots as a public park to get more continuous land near the site of Hopewell Centre II.

He said the public park proposals were gradually curtailed throughout the years until 5,880 square meters along Ship Street to Kennedy Road proposed in 1985 became only 2,030 sqm in the approved 1994 plan.

On greater board scrutiny, Emmerton said a site at 196-206 Queen's Road East zoned as open space in 1995 was quietly developed into a commercial tower with three minor amendments passed by a single board member.

Civic Party lawmaker Tanya Chan Shuk-chong is calling for all details of the land exchange agreement to be made public.

Chan also wants more transparency in land use agreements and mechanisms.

Frontier legislator Cyd Ho Sau-lan said the land exchange agreement is vulnerable to manipulation and collusion.
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Old December 2nd, 2008, 01:24 PM   #149
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Old December 8th, 2008, 08:52 AM   #150
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Shortened Hopewell Centre II does not need planning approval
6 December 2008
South China Morning Post

The development plan of the shortened Hopewell Centre II, previously known as the Mega Tower, does not need approval from the Town Planning Board, the Development Bureau has said after legal advice.

The Planning Department also revealed in a letter to Civic Party lawmaker Tanya Chan yesterday that Hopewell had suggested turning a site on 196-206 Queen's Road East - now the QRE Plaza - into open space as part of the Mega Tower project. But it was not incorporated as a condition in the planning permit issued.

Last month Secretary for Development Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor announced that the 93-storey hotel in Wan Chai would be trimmed to just over 50 storeys. This followed years of negotiations with Hopewell Holdings. She also said the government would seek legal advice to see if the project, approved by the Town Planning Board in 1994, needed to be examined by the board again.

Responding to questions raised by Ms Chan, the Development Bureau said it was not necessary for Hopewell to seek approval again after considering the principles of the Town Planning Board Ordinance and board guidelines.

"The revised proposal will not reduce the public facilities included in the original plan and the project will be scaled down," the bureau said in the letter. A Development Bureau spokeswoman confirmed the decision was supported by legal advice, and it would seek the views of Town Planning Board members later.

In the face of public opposition to the government's plan to change the zoning of the QRE Plaza from open space to commercial use, the director of the Planning Department, Ava Ng Tse Suk-ying, said in another letter to Ms Chan that Hopewell did mention creating an open space on the site of the plaza as part of the 1994 Mega Tower plan.

She said the board did not secure the idea as a planning condition because the site was not within the boundaries of the project.

Although the department later zoned the site as open space to reflect the developer's original intention, she said the QRE Plaza was approved in 1981, 13 years earlier than the approval of the Mega Tower project, and the approval was still effective.

"A commercial building was allowed to be built on an open space, showing the government did not gatekeep well," Ms Chan said. She said the government should not allow the revised project to bypass the board's approval.
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Old December 8th, 2008, 05:10 PM   #151
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合和二期修訂項目進行審批
6 December 2008
信報

合和實業(054)旗下合和中心二期日前終落實大幅降低發展密度,發展局最新表示,發展商已就修訂項目提交交通影響評估報告和就道路改善工程計劃提出申請,相關部門正按程序跟進。

該局回覆公民黨立法會議員陳淑莊的去函時指出,倘運輸署接納有關方案,將會向灣仔區議會諮詢,及後刊憲及讓公眾人士提出意見。由於合和實業早前同意公開二○○八年的交通影響評估報告,發展局亦已向發展商表示,前述的方案倘獲接納後亦將公開,以助灣仔區居民了解項目詳情。此外,城規會亦毋須重新審議修訂方案。

另外,規劃署署長伍謝淑瑩的回覆函件上則指出,雖然發展商早年曾提出將QRE Plaza現址作為合和中心二期的換地範圍並作休憩用地,唯城規會當年在考慮合和中心二期項目時,QRE Plaza用地在重建區之外,故只建議發展商可與政府磋商換地事宜。此外,地政總署亦認為,用地不在重建範圍內,不應納入換地討論中。

她表示,一九九四年城規會改劃QRE Plaza用地作「休憩用地」,相信用作反映長遠規劃意向。至於現有的寫字樓,則以一九八一年已取得的規劃許可作技術修訂,發展商亦在上月向城規會申請將整幅用地由「休憩用地」改為「商業」用途。規劃署強調,隨環境和客觀事實改變申請改劃用途,不能被視作先前規劃的失誤。

就前述回覆,陳淑莊質疑換地等事宜涉及有人失職錯批,讓發展商可在休憩用地上興建QRE Plaza;她並要求政府和發展商將合和中心二期的新舊圖則公開,讓各方了解項目最新情況■
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Old December 10th, 2008, 03:53 PM   #152
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發展局3C 解談判死結
5 December 2008
香港經濟日報

合和二期這個拖拉近30年的工程,港府和發展商多年來積累下來的矛盾,突然撥開雲霧見青天,有望明年底動工,究竟發展局局長林鄭月娥,和合和主席胡應湘之子胡文新,兩人有何微妙的化學作用,令官商可達致雙贏局面?

政策要穩定清晰 具一致性

據知情人士透露,港府和合和的談判,也長達一年,最關鍵是發展商肯作出重大讓步;其次是胡文新作為第二代,沒有父親胡應湘那麼多包袱,令談判順利。

據悉,在長達一年的磋商中,並不存在發展商提出不同方案,來來回回反覆商討;反而是政府清脆利落地提出規限,讓發展商考慮,繼而得出最新的讓步方案。

消息又指,港府談判過程中,主要是手執三個C;包括政策的Certainty(穩定性)、Clarity(清晰性)和Consistency(一致性);尤其是政策的一致性,對發展商最為重要。

首先是Certainty,即政策要穩定和連貫性,不要左搖右擺,叫發展商試甲方案,然後又試乙方案,但結果還是備受攻擊,令發展商不勝煩擾。

第二是Clarity,即把要求講得清楚,因對做生意來說,最重要是將政府的要求講得一清二楚,發展商才能計算整個計劃的成本,及是否有利可圖。

第三是Consistency,即一致性,對所有發展商一視同仁,不會有所偏頗。

胡文新大幅讓步 獲父默許

港府消息指,胡文新沒有父親的包袱之餘,也積極聽取地區和環保人士意見,對原計劃作出修訂;當然胡文新背後也是得到父親胡應湘的默許,否則不可以成事,而胡應湘也很識做,躲在背後,歸功於兒子。
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Old December 19th, 2008, 05:17 AM   #153
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Rezoning plan for Wan Chai site rejected
18 December 2008
South China Morning Post

A green group's proposal to rezone half of the Hopewell Centre II site as a green belt has not been supported by the Planning Department.

In a paper to be discussed by the Town Planning Board tomorrow, the department says retaining the present zoning as a "comprehensive redevelopment area" would encourage the developer to provide open space. It adds that planning approval had long been granted for the proposed hotel - known as Mega Tower before it was scaled down from 93 storeys.

The director of Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation had advised that the proposed area was well-wooded and rezoning would help preserve trees.

The Conservancy Association, which made the application, said rezoning would affect only government land, which forms half the site area, and would not take away developer Hopewell Holdings' development right.

It added that the remaining private land could still be fully utilised by the developer to build a hotel of an appropriate scale.

The association said the proposed area, densely covered by shrubs and mature trees, would provide a visual corridor and readily available public open space, with no need to ask the developer to help provide man-made public spaces. Its proposal has drawn 952 supporting comments and 614 objections from the public.

Hopewell, among the objectors, said rezoning would bring uncertainty to the development and abuse the planning system to further a political agenda.

The developer said it had a good track record in urban renewal and providing public planning gains, and rezoning would delay its commitment on the hotel.

In the approved plan, the developer will provide 5,880 square metres of public open space, and will preserve and transplant healthy trees within the site.

Meanwhile, the Town Planning Board decided at a confidential meeting last Friday that the revisions of the hotel plan, including the reductions in plot ratio, building height and number of hotel rooms, were all "Class A amendments", which do not need the board's approval because they are minor changes and have no bad planning impact.

The board said such an arrangement would streamline the approval process.

Its decision drew criticism from lawmaker Tanya Chan, who said the confidential nature of the decision-making process would prevent the public from monitoring the project.
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Old December 19th, 2008, 09:59 AM   #154
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Green group fears plan to save wall trees will fail
19 December 2008
South China Morning Post

A green group has challenged the tree preservation proposal for the Hopewell Centre II hotel project, saying transplanting the valuable wall trees was unlikely to succeed.

The site is the only place in Wan Chai where the trees rooted in walls can still be found, Conservancy Association campaign manager Peter Li Siu-man said. The wall was part of the private Tung Chi College, which has been mostly demolished.

The project, between Queen's Road East and Kennedy Road, was initially known as Mega Tower.

Mr Li said the site could be readily turned into a relics park joining nearby historic buildings.

Although none of the 510 trees, including the 12 wall trees, on the site are listed in the government's old and valuable tree registry, they nonetheless form natural woodland and a green wedge leading from Mid-Levels, he said.

The developer, Hopewell Holdings, has announced it would spend HK$20 million to transplant and preserve some of the healthy trees, but the green group is doubtful.

One 25-metre Chinese banyan planted in a wall at the site, for example, may be valuable.

"I am not confident that this tree will survive if transplanted," said the group's conservation manager and tree expert, Ken So Kwok-yin. "Its roots have extended deep inside the wall. It is difficult to move the whole thing without causing damage."

He estimated the tree was about 30 to 50 years old.

Jim Chi-yung, a tree expert at the University of Hong Kong, described the tree as surprisingly beautiful and said transplanting it would almost be impossible, "unless they lift the whole wall together with the mud using a crane. But the place may be too small for vehicles to get in."

The association applied to the Town Planning Board to rezone the government land as green belt. It wants the developer to build the hotel on its share of the land. The board will discuss the proposal today.
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Old December 21st, 2008, 03:05 PM   #155
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合和二期創500職 建造業受惠
16 December 2008
香港經濟日報

【本報訊】金融海嘯嚴重打擊本港建造業,但有私人發展商卻在逆市中計劃施工。香港建造業總工會估計,明年第四季上馬的合和中心二期,施工期間會提供500個職位,並且促請政府加快推出小型工程,創造更多職位。

澳門多項工程相繼停工,香港建造業總工會理事長蔡鎮華預計,今年底前約有5,000至6,000名工人回港,預料明年春節情況更為嚴峻,再有1,000至2,000人回流。

他指出,基於大部分工人由香港承建商聘請,估計當中7至8成工人現時仍有短期工作在手,但長遠而言仍需大型工程解困。

對於有私人工程在逆市時仍上馬,如明年第四季動工的合和中心二期酒店,他對此表示讚賞,估計該工程施工期間會為500人提供就業機會,涉及工種包括機電、裝修等。

工會促小型工程上馬

政府在本立法年度推出166項小型工程,蔡對此表示歡迎,認為可解本港工人燃眉之急,冀當局能加快推出速度,而有望明年上馬的港珠澳大橋,他又希望成功投標者能聘用約8成本地工人,同時強制部分預製組件在本港生產,以增加就業機會。

從事泥水近51年的王先生,自金融海嘯後失業近2個月。他表示,10月後不少私人小型裝修工程停工,部分客戶甚至撻訂放棄裝修。「沙氏時最差曾有2個月失業,但今次可能明年3月後才有工開。」他坦言,幸好家庭經濟壓力不大,但期望政府工程盡快推出。
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Old December 26th, 2008, 05:14 PM   #156
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Opinion : Department must provide full disclosure on Hopewell Centre II
26 December 2008
South China Morning Post

I refer to the confidential decision of the Town Planning Board that design changes to the Hopewell Centre II, or Mega Tower, were so minor that they did not need the board's approval ("Rezoning plan for Wan Chai site rejected" December 18).

In 1994 when the project was approved there was no public consultation.

Now, after five years of public debate and criticism of a planning system that has failed to protect the public interest (on the 1994 scheme), it is an insult to the public that changes to the scheme are again being implemented behind closed doors - and in fact delegated to the level of district planning officer.

The fact that Hopewell Holdings has, under pressure, shown a willingness to modify the scheme is not an excuse for the Planning Department to exclude the views of the public on these changes.

The department should immediately make known the following:

Absolute confirmation that the maximum gross floor area is 101,667 square metres and that no extra "hidden" bonuses will be allowed;

The nature, extent and impact on the locality of roadworks to be carried out by the developer, since clearly they include massive structures that will encroach onto the public domain;

The construction duration and impact of these roadworks which will create noise, disruption and diversions both in Kennedy Road and Queen's Road East;

The location of the existing mature trees that will avoid the massive concrete podium (which appears to cover the entire site area); and

An explanation of why a major portion of the site is allowed as private open space at a time when the secretary for development has recognised the failure of the private open space concept, from the community point of view.

The astonishing statement by the Planning Department that "zoning as a comprehensive redevelopment area would encourage the developer to provide open space" is utter nonsense given the history of this site since 1985 and the Town Planning Board's definition of "open space".

Roger Emmerton, Wan Chai
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Old December 27th, 2008, 04:47 AM   #157
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Quote:
Originally Posted by hkskyline View Post
Green group fears plan to save wall trees will fail
19 December 2008
South China Morning Post

A green group has challenged the tree preservation proposal for the Hopewell Centre II hotel project, saying transplanting the valuable wall trees was unlikely to succeed.

The site is the only place in Wan Chai where the trees rooted in walls can still be found, Conservancy Association campaign manager Peter Li Siu-man said. The wall was part of the private Tung Chi College, which has been mostly demolished.

The project, between Queen's Road East and Kennedy Road, was initially known as Mega Tower.

Mr Li said the site could be readily turned into a relics park joining nearby historic buildings.

Although none of the 510 trees, including the 12 wall trees, on the site are listed in the government's old and valuable tree registry, they nonetheless form natural woodland and a green wedge leading from Mid-Levels, he said.

The developer, Hopewell Holdings, has announced it would spend HK$20 million to transplant and preserve some of the healthy trees, but the green group is doubtful.

One 25-metre Chinese banyan planted in a wall at the site, for example, may be valuable.

"I am not confident that this tree will survive if transplanted," said the group's conservation manager and tree expert, Ken So Kwok-yin. "Its roots have extended deep inside the wall. It is difficult to move the whole thing without causing damage."

He estimated the tree was about 30 to 50 years old.

Jim Chi-yung, a tree expert at the University of Hong Kong, described the tree as surprisingly beautiful and said transplanting it would almost be impossible, "unless they lift the whole wall together with the mud using a crane. But the place may be too small for vehicles to get in."

The association applied to the Town Planning Board to rezone the government land as green belt. It wants the developer to build the hotel on its share of the land. The board will discuss the proposal today.
環團促合和保留天然石牆樹
19 December 2008

【東方日報專訊】城市規劃委員會今早將討論環保團體長春社申請,要求把灣仔合和中心二期地盤其中一幅政府土地重新規劃成綠化地帶,雖然遭否決機會極高,但為免多棵逾八十年歷史石牆樹及全港僅餘的都市綠洲消失,長春社一班成員及灣仔區居民昨午在船街一棵石牆樹繫上綠絲帶,向合和及城規會爭取石牆樹「原封不動」,長春社指:「○樹天然生出櫬,唔係人工重植種得番。」

成功移植機會不高

長春社保育經理蘇國賢表示,擬建的合和二期地盤原種植有大量珍貴樹木,當中包括多棵逾八十年歷史的石牆樹,根據該社與發展商合和實業早前會面,合和承諾撥出二千萬元保育樹木,但對包括大、細葉榕等石牆樹的具體安排則欠詳細計劃。

由於石牆樹成功移植機會不高,因此長春社認為合和既然計劃在該幅涉及政府土地的斜坡興建綠化公園,倒不如直接保留現有石牆樹,長春社並於今年九月向城規會申請將該幅現時規劃為綜合發展區的土地,改變成綠化地帶。

在今早向城規會陳述意見前,一班長春社成員及灣仔區居民昨午在船街,前身為同濟中學石牆外的細葉榕上繫上綠絲帶,參加者包括約廿年前於同濟中學任桝的吳彥強。

他表示,外地遊客訪港未必喜歡欣賞新式現代建築,反而具原始風貌的樹景為難得一見,因此希望發展商「原址保留」仍然健康的石牆樹。
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Old January 2nd, 2009, 09:14 AM   #158
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Wu ready to face grilling in Legco
29 December 2008
Hong Kong Standard

Hopewell managing director Thomas Jefferson Wu Man-san is willing to face lawmakers on the Hopewell Centre II project, he said in an interview with The Standard. Despite a swift decision to scale down the size of the new building, the company still faced criticism from political parties doubting its sincerity, with Wu being lambasted for not explaining the issue to the Legislative Council. He said he does not find the Legco culture terrifying and noted that lawmakers were only performing their duty. "Legislators are representatives of the people. They are only monitoring society for the people's interest," Wu said.

Commenting on the political environment, Wu said it was only natural people have higher expectations and demands after their basic needs have been fulfilled.

He had spent a year meeting government officials and representatives at the district level over the Hopewell project, and would be "very willing" to meet with the legislators should he be invited.

Wu's father and group chairman, Gordon Wu Ying-sheung, first proposed the development almost 30 years ago. But the project, formerly known as Mega Tower, could not proceed because of its size.

Thomas Wu's swift decision to cut 40 percent of the original proposal won praise from Secretary for Development Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor.

Wu recalled when he first met Lam, he was asked whether he had any experience in dealing with people in the community.

He said he explained his experience in dealing with some government officials, schools and non- government organizations on setting up his ice hockey academy.

Gordon Wu was known for his outspoken character _ since the 1990s, he had criticized the government for not building the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau bridge. He was also outspoken on political issues.

"Many government officials I met praised my father for his contribution. I may not have the same style as him. I welcome communication and I hope people can understand our company better," the younger Wu said.

His faith in the three Cs _ clarity, consistency and certainty _ helped him make the swift decision on Hopewell Centre II in Wan Chai.

"Certainty is what everybody looks for, no matter if you are a developer or an ordinary household. One's property represents most of one's assets in Hong Kong. We need to have certainty before making any investment decision," Wu said, adding he sees nothing wrong with the current executive-led system in Hong Kong.
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Old January 3rd, 2009, 06:34 PM   #159
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Opinion : Citizens are now standing up to developers
1 January 2009
South China Morning Post

Citizens are now standing up to developers

John Cheng ("Strike balance between causes", December 25), is concerned that one of our developers is being unfairly picked on.

Given that all of Hong Kong's richest people are in property, one finds is difficult to view them as innocent victims. There are ample reasons to pick on all developers - Sino Land, and others, for massive tower-wall projects over MTR stations; Cheung Kong and Henderson Land for blocking natural light and air in North Point; New World and Wharf hell-bent on building concrete walls on the Tsim Sha Tsui waterfront; Swire for its controversial Castle Steps project in Mid-Levels; and Sun Hung Kai for its Manhattan Hill podium. The list is endless but, as Mr Cheng has written a number of letters supporting the Mega Tower project, the developer he refers to is presumably Hopewell Holdings.

He says: "Hong Kong needs mature political leaders to lead us into the future." We certainly do and these leaders must have the courage to stand up for their constituents who have had their basic human rights to fresh air, natural light and public open space trampled upon by long-standing cosy arrangements between our government and developers.

The Mega Tower saga is a textbook example of such collusion.

A lapsed application is the basis for this development. To date, no document that validates the extension of building approval in 1996 has ever been produced.

The approval was not extended and the developer and the administration will do anything to avoid any legal process that rules on this and reveals collusion and lapses in due process.

Then there is the question as to how Hopewell was allowed to build QRE Plaza on a designated green site and why the secretary for development is trying to manipulate the Town Planning Board to retrospectively rezone the site. Here, we open another can of worms. Hopewell is not being picked on. Opposition to the Mega Tower is the beginning of the revolt of the middle class against the forces that leave us with a quality of life well below that of the working class in other communities. Young and upcoming politicians are astute enough to recognise this.

Citizens have found their voice and will no longer tolerate being peasants in their own land. Projects that are not compatible with the general good will be contested.

Candy Tam, Wan Chai
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Old January 7th, 2009, 03:28 PM   #160
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黎廣德憂合和二期成數碼港翻版
3 January 2009
信報

政府和發展商尚未交代合和中心二期經修訂後的發展詳情,公民黨昨天去信發展局局長林鄭月娥,促她與發展商進行換地協議前,盡快公開資料就項目諮詢公眾。副主席黎廣德質疑,政府首次如此主動推動商業發展項目上馬,由監管者的角色變為推動者,擔心變為數碼港翻版。

公民黨在信中指,曾多次去信林鄭月娥及規劃署署長,要求公開合和中心二期的修訂詳情,並進行公眾諮詢,但對方在回覆中僅提及會公開計劃的交通影響評估報告和道路改善工程,至今未有提及整個發展計畫的詳情。公民黨信件促請當局在經公眾諮詢和通過相關的交通影響評估前,不能與發展商展開任何有關換地協議的討論。

黎廣德接受查詢時指,政府曾協助發展商修訂有關項目,令其獲城市規劃委員會通過為「輕微修訂」,做成既定事實,是倒退的做法。他稱,不少發展項目在申請程序上都會遇到阻撓,但今次政府如此主動協力,情況就像數碼港,政府的角色由監管者變成推動者,相當危險。

黎廣德又稱,林鄭月娥指項目的總建築樓面面積較一九九四年核准計劃大幅削減約三成,有誤導之嫌。他指出,原因是發展商在該地盤只有大約百分之五十六的地皮,所謂縮小後的發展規模,仍比其原有地皮多出四成。

據了解,地產及建造界立法會議員石禮謙對政府主動協助合和亦感到不滿,石禮謙接受查詢時予以否認,他表示,絕對支持有關項目,並直言,「人地做佐幾十年,點會反對。」■
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