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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
Developer seeks judicial review to loosen Mid-Levels restrictions
9 October 2007
South China Morning Post

Swire Properties is seeking a judicial review to ease town planning restrictions to facilitate the building of a luxury residence in Mid-Levels.

It is the second judicial review launched by a Swire subsidiary, International Trader Limited (ITL), for a proposed residential tower of more than 50 storeys on Seymour Road and Castle Steps.

ITL had earlier launched a judicial review application against the Building Authority for blocking the development. Ms Justice Anselmo Reyes upheld the authority's decision in April of last year.

Yesterday, lawyer Benjamin Yu, representing ITL, argued for a separate judicial review of the Town Planning Appeal Board's dismissal last December of an appeal the company launched. It was against the Town Planning Board's refusal to relax the plot ratio and building height restrictions for the area.

Mr Yu contended before Mr Justice Andrew Cheung Kui-nung, sitting in the Court of First Instance, that the appeal board's decision was unlawful because it wrongly took into account traffic and visual considerations, which were not relevant.

He told the court that in the first judicial review, ITL was seeking a relaxation of the plot ratio restriction and the height restrictions in the area.

Yet the board was of the view that such a relaxation could cause traffic congestion, the court heard.

The planned building at the junction of Seymour Road, Castle Road and Castle Steps would take up an area of 2,132 square metres.

Vehicular access was no different from the adjacent Robinson Place on Robinson Road, Mr Yu argued, but the zone where Robinson Place was located was free from such planning restrictions.

The court was told that part of the site was restricted to a plot ratio of five, or the existing plot ratio, whichever was greater. The maximum building height was 12 storeys, or the height of existing buildings, whichever was greater.

The hearing continues today.

138,039 Posts
Discussion Starter · #2 ·
Board challenges approval for tower
Mid-Levels residents hail planners' move

24 November 2007
South China Morning Post

The Town Planning Board will appeal against a judicial review ruling that permits a 54-storey building to be constructed on Seymour Road and Castle Steps, in Mid-Levels.

The decision came after two hours of closed-door discussions yesterday morning. Board chairman Raymond Young Lap-moon said it had been backed by the majority of the board members, adding that the controversial ruling last Thursday would have a significant impact on the board's work in future.

"We hope to clarify some directional issues in the appeal, such as what would be taken into consideration [by the court]," he said.

But Mr Young did not spell out how the ruling would affect the board.

The board's decision was welcomed by about 3,000 people - including residents, who signed a petition in favour of the appeal.

A Swire Properties spokesman said the company acknowledged the right of the board to appeal but hoped the matter could be settled soon as the town planning process had dragged on for four years.

High Court judge Andrew Cheung Kui-nung ordered the board to reverse its decision blocking the relaxation of height and plot ratio restrictions on a block of land abutting Castle Steps for the development by a subsidiary of Swire Properties, International Trader Limited (ITL).

He said the Town Planning Appeal Board had wrongly taken traffic and visual considerations into account.

The ruling sparked public outcry from Mid-Levels residents, district councillors and green groups, saying that the high-rise would create a wall effect and put pressure on traffic in the area.

The board had dismissed ITL's applications for relaxation twice. It maintained that a maximum of 12 storeys with a plot ratio of no more than 5 should be built. Another 57-storey high-rise was proposed by the same developer for an adjoining site.

After the court ruling, a much-wider 54-storey high-rise can be built across the two sites.

A source close to the board said the move was to bring the case to the consideration of three High Court judges instead of just one.

The source also said it was necessary to clarify the circumstances under which a relaxation should be allowed during the town planning process.

University of Hong Kong assistant law professor Eric Cheung Tat-ming said the traffic factor had not been a legal issue for planners.

The emphasis placed on the factor, as upheld by the board in its two rejections, might have been the result of a change of public sentiment.

He dismissed worries that developers would increasingly abuse the legal system by seeking judicial reviews, saying that the court was fulfilling its obligation instead of taking over the town planning decision.

Professor Cheung urged the government to expedite its review of the outline zoning plan to clarify the planning intention.

More than half of Hong Kong's 108 outline zoning plans do not have planning parameters specifying heights, plot ratio and maximum gross floor areas.

138,039 Posts
Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Planning board appeals against order to OK Mid-Levels 'toothpick'
4 December 2008
South China Morning Post

The Town Planning Appeal Board is appealing in the High Court against a judgment that ordered it to grant a Swire subsidiary permission to build a controversial development in Mid-Levels.

The judgment, made by Mr Justice Andrew Cheung Kui-nung in the High Court in November last year, directed the board to reverse its previous decision blocking the plan, saying that factors it had considered, such as traffic and the visual impact of the development, were irrelevant.

But the board has appealed, arguing that it had the statutory power to take those factors into account because they were in the public interest.

The appeal was launched yesterday before Mr Justice Frank Stock, Mr Justice Michael Hartmann and Madam Justice Carlye Chu Fun-ling, sitting in the Court of Appeal.

Mr Justice Cheung ruled last year that the board had to reverse its decision blocking the relaxation of height and plot ratio restrictions on a block of land abutting Castle Steps, which would have cleared the way for a development by International Trader.

International Trader wants to build a 54-storey building - nicknamed "the toothpick" by its opponents - on a parcel of land comprising the disputed block and several others on Seymour Road.

The board, by a majority of three to two, had refused the company's application to remove the 12-storey limit on the site because of traffic and visual considerations.

But Mr Justice Cheung found that the explanatory documents of the Mid-Levels West outline zoning plan indicated that relevant restrictions related to access for fire services and refuse collection, and there was little to indicate that traffic issues were behind the board's decision to limit development on the site.

He ruled that traffic and visual considerations were not relevant to International Trader's application for relaxation of restrictions on the site.

On the first day of the appeal against the November judgment, Mr Keith Lindblom QC, acting for the board, contended yesterday that the board had exercised its statutory discretion in considering those factors.

He said the board had the power to consider traffic and visual effects, even though it was not within the scope of the zoning plan, as they concerned the environment of the sites.

"These considerations concern public interest," Mr Lindblom said, noting that it was in the public interest to include considerations regarding the development's impact on its environment.

"This is absolutely crucial to the development control task [of the board]."

Mr Lindblom said it was the general principle in town planning for the board to identify considerations material to decision making. "It is not right to regard the scope of considerations as being confined by the plan itself."

He pointed out that the two considerations in question related to the issues of how the development plan would affect the local environment and the impact on the people who lived in the area.

The hearing continues today.

138,039 Posts
Discussion Starter · #8 ·
I think 'visual' has little to do with the objections. It's the massive increase in height that's catching everyone's attention.

138,039 Posts
Discussion Starter · #11 ·
Planners lose appeal on 'toothpick tower' limits
28 February 2009
South China Morning Post

Town planners are being too picky about Swire's "toothpick tower" plan for Mid-Levels, a court said yesterday.

They had no right to consider the visual impact and effect on traffic of the development, a three-judge panel ruled.

The Court of Appeal judges upheld a lower court ruling that the Town Planning Board had been wrong to insist on a 12-storey height limit on part of the site of the 50-storey block of flats in Seymour Road, which critics have dubbed a "toothpick tower".

A spokeswoman for Swire said it would start work on the tower as soon as possible.

People living near the site of the proposed tower said the court had ridden roughshod over their concerns.

"I am very unhappy about the ruling," said Elina Li, of Goldwin Heights in Seymour Road.

"The traffic is too heavy here and there are too many construction sites in the area. These cause pollution," she said.

Jason Yee, of Robinson Place, Robinson Road, said the ruling constituted a "mammoth relaxation" of planning rules.

"Thousands of people are against such a toothpick structure that will ill serve an area already plagued by traffic congestion, poor ventilation, restricted sunlight and a host of health concerns," he said.

The rights and wishes of the community had not been respected, he said.

Yesterday's judgment by Mr Justice Frank Stock, Mr Justice Michael Hartmann and Madam Justice Carlye Chu Fun-ling stemmed from an appeal launched by the board in December against a 2007 Court of First Instance ruling in favour of Swire.

The board had based its decision on explanatory notes attached to the outline zoning plan containing the 12-storey height limit for land adjacent to Castle Steps - a steep, stepped street.

But in his ruling, in November 2007, Mr Justice Andrew Cheung Kui-nung, of the Court of First Instance, said the explanatory notes were concerned only with the site's accessibility and there was little to indicate that traffic issues were behind the board's decision to limit development on the site.

He ruled that the development's effect on traffic and its visual impact were irrelevant to the board's consideration of Swire's application and ordered it to relax the 12-storey height limit.

Swire had sought to build a 54-storey tower, but has only received approval for one 50 storeys tall.

A Swire spokeswoman said it would develop the site according to the planning and building approvals it had received.

A board spokeswoman said it would study the possibility of a further appeal against the Court of First Instance ruling.

138,039 Posts
Discussion Starter · #12 ·
Planners let 'toothpick tower' go ahead
21 March 2009
South China Morning Post

The Town Planning Board will not appeal against a court ruling in favour of a Swire development in Mid-Levels, clearing the way for construction of what critics call the "toothpick tower" to begin.

The unanimous decision came after the board consulted senior counsel and the Department of Justice, and met behind closed doors yesterday. The deadline to appeal expires at the end of the month.

The board has been going through the courts in an effort to scale down the development. Last month, the Court of Appeal ruled that the board, in considering the developer's plan, should give regard to the intention behind the outline zoning plan for Mid-Levels West. The panel of three judges ruled the board should not go beyond it by considering visual and traffic impacts of the development - which some residents have expressed concern about.

The board spokesman yesterday said the site had a "unique zoning history", and agreed with the court that the board could have relaxed development restrictions given that the site was a combination of low and high density sites.

The Court of Appeal judgment "would not have significant implications on the planning system, the board's function and operation", he said. The board would continue to review outline zoning plans to ensure it best performed its legal requirements, he said.

In its ruling, the court said the board had been wrong to insist on a 12-storey height limit on part of the site of the 50-storey apartment block in Seymour Road.

Swire Properties' subsidiary International Trader Limited wanted to build the block on a site combined from one zoned for high density and the other for low density. The low-density site was so zoned because it had no street access, what planners call landlocked.

The judges said the rationale to make the site low density and impose a height limit had to be reconsidered once the site was combined and the landlock issue is solved.

Residents in the area had complained the development would bring heavy traffic and poor ventilation to the area.

Elina Li Mee-nar, chairperson of the owners' corporation of Goldwin Heights, said she was deeply disappointed about the board's decision.

"I am confused why the board said the judgment would not affect the planning system. How is the board supposed to function?"

A Swire Properties spokeswoman said the developer would pursue the development as planned.

138,039 Posts
Discussion Starter · #14 ·
Another twist in saga over 'toothpick tower'
1 February 2009
South China Morning Post

A Swire Pacific subsidiary behind a controversial project in Mid-Levels is again seeking a judicial review to quash the Town Planning Board's decision not to ease the height restriction on a plot of land.

International Trader wants to build a 54-storey block of flats in Seymour Road on a parcel of land that includes one plot - abutting Castle Steps - which is limited to a 12-storey building. Other plots on the site, involved in the development and owned by the same company, have no height restrictions.

The plan for the "toothpick tower" was turned down by both the planning board and its appeal board.

The company won its first victory in 2007, when Mr Justice Andrew Cheung Kui-nung in the Court of First Instance ruled that the appeal board should reverse its decision to block the plan. He ruled that it had considered irrelevant factors, such as traffic and the development's visual impact.

Two months ago, the board sought to overturn Mr Justice Cheung's ruling, arguing that it had the statutory power to take those factors into account since they were in the public interest.

On Friday, International Trader filed an application in the High Court for a judicial review in a further effort to get the height restriction lifted.

Its application said the board did not apply for a stay of execution of Mr Justice Cheung's judgment, and that his findings were not challenged during the appeal heard in December before Mr Justice Frank Stock, Mr Justice Michael Hartmann and Madam Justice Carlye Chu Fun-ling.

International Trader's application noted that a portion of Caine Road had been rezoned, changing its height limit. The justification for that rezoning applied equally to the Seymour project, it argued.

The rezoned land in Caine Road is located at Leung Fai Terrace, a site abutting a stepped street with no direct vehicular access - which was also the justification behind the zoning restriction along Castle Steps.

International Trader also seeks an injunction to restrain the board from submitting the Caine Road amended draft zoning plan to the Chief Executive in Council for approval.

138,039 Posts
Discussion Starter · #16 ·
Swire plans to focus on building homes in HK
15 May 2009
South China Morning Post

Swire Pacific said it would focus more on developing homes in Hong Kong over the next three years while building up a large investment portfolio on the mainland.

Group executive director Martin Cubbon said Swire planned to offer the residential project at Seymour Road for sale in two to three years.

"The residential market is where we want to expand in future. We will have more activity in the residential segment and have some potential [projects] going forward, but not everything is in place," he said.

"We have been expanding our portfolio [on the mainland], while we are still very interested in the Hong Kong market. The market has gone through quite a rocky period in the past five to six months, but we can see that it is picking up again."

Swire plans to increase its investment properties to 24 million square feet by 2013, of which 8 million sqft will be on the mainland and 16 million sqft in Hong Kong.

The company now owns 15 million sqft of office and retail properties in Hong Kong and 1 million sqft in Beijing.

Mr Cubbon said no formal decision had been made on the development plan for the Tai Sang Commercial Building in Wan Chai.

Swire's property unit acquired the building at an auction in December 2007 for HK$1.36 billion or HK$7,334 per square foot, extending the footprint of its Pacific Place in Admiralty.

Commenting on Swire's office rentals, Mr Cubbon said demand for office space remained strong.

"Rental is off its peak, which appeared in the middle of last year. The rate of decrease in rental is not as significant as what the market has been talking about," he said.

Chairman Christopher Pratt said the company had no immediate plan to seek a listing on the mainland stock market.

138,039 Posts
Discussion Starter · #17 ·
Strong demand for luxury flats in Mid-Levels
17 July 2009
South China Morning Post

Demand for new luxury high-rise properties, with clubhouse facilities, in Mid-Levels continues to be strong and an increasing number of buyers are coming from the mainland, according to Centaline property agency.

For some people, living close to SoHo and Central is essential for business and entertainment.

And the Central-Mid-Levels escalator has made newly built, luxury high-rise flats, with members-only amenities along Robinson Road, more popular among young professionals in recent years.

The one-year-old 31 Robinson Road has been a hot favourite. The 30-storey building has two to four units on each floor - 84 units in total.

There is a mix of three-bedroom and four-bedroom flats, all come with a balcony and sizes range from 1,172 to 2,665 sqft.

The development has an outdoor swimming pool, sky garden, jacuzzi and gym, spa and snooker tables. Estate agent Centaline completed a transaction at the development last week.

A 2,665 sqft four-bedroom unit, with views over Victoria Harbour, sold for HK$65 million. The property was valued at HK$24,390 per sqft. The buyer was from the mainland, according to Centaline.

Another 2,665 sqft four-bedroom flat at the same address sold for HK$41.8 million (HK$ 15,685 per sqft) last month.

Centaline district manager Raymond Li said the estate agent had sold about 20 units this year - all were new. He said prices had been stable throughout this year and last.

Rents throughout Mid-Levels have also been stable during the same period, at about HK$28 to HK$30 per sqft. Mr Li said most buyers were end-users.

Buyers interested in owning flats at 31 Robinson Road will now have to turn to the secondary market because all flats have been sold. Available properties are being valued at HK$13,000 to HK$18,000 per sqft.

Steve Lam, Savills's director of residential sales for Hong Kong, said that there was further potential for developing high-rise luxury properties in Mid-Levels. Wheelock Properties has one development, The Babington, scheduled for launch later this year, although there have been private placements where some flats have been offered at HK$17,000 to HK$18,000 per sqft.

There are two sites being developed into luxury residential properties on Seymour Road by Swire Properties and Singapore's Wing Tai Holdings Hong Kong-listed subsidiary USI Holdings.

Another relatively new development, with exclusive facilities for residents in Mid-Levels favoured by city workers and property investors, is 80 Robinson Road, which was launched in 2001. The eight-year-old development has two towers with four flats on each floor, ranging from 1,124 to 1,409 sqft. The development offers two-bedroom or three-bedroom flats, and duplex and penthouse units.

The development also offers clubhouse facilities, gym, playground, sauna, squash courts and a swimming pool.

A 1,136 sqft three-bedroom flat recently sold for HK$11.3 million. The original buyer bought the flat for HK$8.81 million in 2001.

Another transaction last week, at 80 Robinson Road, was for a 1,398 sqft rented three-bedroom flat which was sold for HK$16 million.

The buyer of the property was impressed with rentals, HK$56,000 a month, giving a rental yield of 4.2 per cent, according to Centaline.

138,039 Posts
Discussion Starter · #18 ·
太古料豪宅樓價升約一成 司徒拔道項目主打大單位
19 June 2009












138,039 Posts
Discussion Starter · #19 ·
22 July 2009
文匯報 (香港)

【本報訊】(記者 梁悅琴)屋宇署於6月共批出25份建築圖則,太古地產於西摩道25A至B,27至29A,31,33至35號及衛城道14至16號獲批興建1幢52層高住宅連會所,住宅樓面約165,794呎。
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