Liaison Office lowers height to protect Guia Lighthouse view
Macau Post Daily 20 July 2007
The height of the new headquarters of the Liaison Office of the Central People’s Government in front of the world-heritage protected Guia Lighthouse atop the 90-metre Guia Hill will be lowered from the originally planned 99.12 metres to 88 metres, the director of the Liaison Office, Bai Zhijian, announced yesterday.
Mr. Bai made the announcement prior to a meeting with local students at the Liaison Office on Avenida da Amizade. “I am sure that it [the future headquarters] will not be higher than 90 metres. Three of the previously planned 21 floors will be cut, which means about 10 metres less in height. So the building will be about 88 metres tall.” Mr. Bai said.
The originally planned 99.12 metres of the building was reportedly meant to commemorate Macau’s return to the motherland in December (the 12th month of the year) 1999.
The new headquarters of the Liaison Office is being built in front of Guia Hill in Zape (Outer Harbour Land Reclamation Zone) The Guia Lighthouse has a height of about 15 metres.
Plans to build at least three high-rise towers, one with a height of some 135 metres, in front of Guia Hill caused a public outcry last year because the buildings would have affected the view of, and from the Guia Lighthouse, which is the oldest western-style lighthouse in southern China and one of Macau’s best-known landmarks. The lighthouse is one of Macau’s world-heritage protected by the UNESCO in Paris.
Following a string of public protests, the director of the Lands, Public Works and Transport Bureau (DSSOPT), Jaime Carion, told legislators last month that buildings in front of Guia Hill would not be allowed to be higher than 90 metres. The DSSOPT reaffirmed the 90-metre height restriction in an official statement on Wednesday.
All height restrictions around Guia Hill had reportedly been lifted by then Secretary for Transport and Public Works Ao Man Long after the 1999 handover. Mr. Ao has been in pre-trial detention for alleged corruption and money laundering since December last year.
When reporters asked Mr. Bai about some experts’ opinion that the height of buildings in front of Guia Hill be limited to 50 metres, Mr. Bai pointed out that the DSSOPT had issued a clear statement on the issue on Wednesday, adding that Zape was neither a world-heritage protected area nor a world-heritage “buffer zone.” Mr. Bai said he believed that some experts were apparently not aware of those facts.
“I think that experts can express their personal opinions. But ultimately they must obey government regulations and do everything in accordance with the law.”
Mr. Bai also said that the Macau government and the UNESCO World Heritage Committee maintained “good communication.” He also said that the Macau government would never violate any rules imposed by the World Heritage Committee.
The Liaison Office director also said that after lowering of the building project’s height from 99.12 metres to about 88 metres, its project designer would ensure that all changes would be in line with official regulations. He also said that after approval of the design changes by the DSSOPT, the Liaison Office would officially announced the project’s exact height to the public.
Mr. Bai also said that while the previous project with a height of 99.12 metres had been fully approved by the central government in Beijing and the local government, the Liaison Office had listened to residents’ opinion on the project’s controversial height. He underlined the fact that the Liaison Office announced last year already that it planned to reduce the height of the project in response to public opinion.
The new headquarters broke ground on February 26 last year. At that time, the building was budgeted to cost some 270 million patacas and planned to be completed by the end of this year, coinciding with the 8th anniversary of the establishment of the Macau Special Administrative Region (MSAR).
Last year, developers announced plans to build three high-rise buildings in Zape in front of Guia Hill, measuring 90 metres, 99 metres and 135 metres in height, respectively. The projects caused a public outcry because at least two of the projects would have seriously affectd the view of, and from the Guia Lighthouse, which was built in 1864-1865.
According to the UNESCO, world-heritage sites “in danger” are those affected by “armed conflict and war, earthquakes and other natural disasters, pollution, poaching, and uncontrolled urbanization and unchecked tourism development.”
The League of Protectors of the Guia Lighthouse is reportedly about to file an official complaint to the UNESCO World Heritage Committee about the government’s alleged negligence in protecting the lighthouse from “uncontrolled urbanization.”