LCQ11: Revitalising Historic Buildings Through Partnership Scheme

     Following is a question by the Hon Wong Kwok-hing and a written reply by the Secretary for Development, Mrs Carrie Lam, in the Legislative Council today (May 25):


     In recent years, there has been increasing public concern about heritage conservation and the Government has taken forward its heritage conservation work through various measures, including organising visits to historic buildings and implementing the Revitalising Historic Buildings Through Partnership Scheme (the Revitalising Scheme).  In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(a) of the number of activities of opening historic buildings for public visit organised by the Commissioner for Heritage's Office under the Development Bureau in each of the past three years, of the respective anticipated number of visitors and actual turnout for each of the visits; and whether members of the public have reflected that they were not able to participate in such activities because the admission quotas for the visits were too small;

(b) of the average cost for organising each of the aforesaid visits for the public and details of the manpower required;

(c) given that there has been increasing public concern about antiquities, monuments and historic buildings, whether the authorities will consider increasing the admission quotas for visits organised for the public under various historic buildings revitalising projects; if they will, of the details; if not, the reasons for that;

(d) given that under the existing Revitalising Scheme, the authorities will invite non-governmental organisations (NGOs) to operate the facilities in the historic buildings which are to be revitalised, of the respective roles of the Government and NGOs in the Revitalising Scheme; and

(e) upon implementation of Batch III of the Revitalising Scheme, what factors the authorities will consider when deciding which historic buildings are to be included in the Revitalising Scheme?



     The Commissioner for Heritage's Office (CHO) of Development Bureau has been actively promoting public participation in heritage conservation since its establishment in April 2008.  CHO and the Antiquities and Monuments Office (AMO) of the Leisure and Cultural Services Department organise various activities, such as guided tours for historic buildings, open days and public fora in order to raise public awareness and interest in heritage conservation.  My reply to the five parts of the question is as follows:

(a) During the past three years, the two afore-mentioned offices organised a variety of public open days and guided tours so that the public would get to know and appreciate the historic buildings and their heritage value at close range.  Among these activities, CHO organised guided tours for five historic buildings and open days for the Former Police Married Quarters on Hollywood Road, Haw Par Mansion and King Yin Lei.  AMO, on the other hand, organised guided tours for a number of Heritage Trails and historic buildings for the public.  Details of these activities are at the Annex.  The above activities were generally popular among the public.  Depending on the public response, we made arrangement where feasible to enable more people to participate in these activities.  For example, the open days for Haw Par Mansion in October 2010 were extended from four days to seven days; while the open days for King Yin Lei held in April this year, which was originally scheduled for 10 days, were extended for five more days due to an overwhelming response.

(b) Generally speaking, we will try to utilise existing resources to organise these open days and guided tours for historic buildings.  The expenditure and the required manpower for each event varied, subject to factors such as the scale of the activity (e.g. the number of participants and the duration of the activity) and whether the historic building is already open to the public.  Moreover, some activities were routine in nature (e.g. the guided tours for district-based historic buildings organised by AMO) while some of them are specially arranged events (e.g. the guided tours organised by CHO for specific target attendees, etc.).  Hence, it is difficult to estimate the average expenditure and the manpower required for these events.

(c) Under the Revitalising Historic Buildings Through Partnership Scheme (Revitalisation Scheme), we require all selected applicants to allow the public to visit the historic buildings under their respective projects.  The specific arrangements will be stipulated in the tenancy agreement to be signed with the selected applicants.

(d) Under the Revitalisation Scheme, Government works in co-operation with the non-profit making organisations (NPOs).  While Government provides historic buildings for adaptive re-use, the NPOs put forward social enterprise proposals that are both creative and manifest the heritage value of the historic buildings.  The selected NPOs are responsible for the renovation and conservation of the historic buildings as well as the operation of the social enterprises.  Any profit generated will be ploughed back to the same project so that the project will become sustainable and benefit the community.

     As a partner of the selected NPOs, Government provides them with financial support, including a one-off grant, where necessary, to cover the cost of major renovation of the buildings either in part or in full; charging of nominal rental for the buildings; and a one-off grant to meet the starting costs and operating deficits of the social enterprises for a maximum of the first two years of operation, subject to a cap of $5 million.  Government also provides the selected organisations with one-stop technical support, which includes assisting them to seek approval from various bureaux/departments in accordance with the relevant administrative and statutory procedures, such as the submission of Heritage Impact Assessment reports to the Antiquities Advisory Board, planning applications to the Town Planning Board based on the proposed uses, and building plans to the Building Authority.  To ensure that the selected organisations implement the revitalisation projects as originally approved, Government also plays a monitoring role.  Government will sign tenancy agreements with the selected organisations to set out the terms and conditions of the operation, and examine the operation of the projects regularly.  The selected organisations are requested to submit regular progress reports and annual reports in order to ensure that the social enterprises are operated to the satisfaction of the Government.

(e) Projects under the Revitalisation Scheme are operated by NPOs in the form of social enterprises.  In general, we take into account the following factors when identifying suitable historic buildings for inclusion in the Revitalisation Scheme, i.e. historical value and architectural significance of the historic buildings, the location, scale and usable area of the buildings, their setting and accessibility, any technical issues which may hinder future revitalisation works, etc.  We will identify suitable historic buildings for inclusion in Batch III of the Revitalisation Scheme based on the above factors.

Ends/Wednesday, May 25, 2011
Issued at HKT 14:53