Stadium warning not given, court told

PUBLISHED : Friday, 28 November, 2003, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 28 November, 2003, 12:00am

The former manager of the Hong Kong Stadium was not forewarned of the 'serious obstacle' it faced in keeping noise levels from pop concerts at a legally acceptable level, a court heard yesterday. That had been 'pretty unkind and unfair' to the company, a government witness agreed.

Wembley International (HK), which took over the stadium's management in March 1994, was prosecuted for breaching noise regulations during pop concerts. Its 10-year management agreement was later terminated prematurely in May 1998.

The witness, Cheung Kwok-kee, is assistant director of the Leisure and Cultural Services Department but was formerly a senior member of staff of the stadium's previous managers, the now-defunct Urban Services Department.

He agreed with Wembley's barrister, Adrian Huggins SC, that the Environmental Protection Department had in May 1992 objected to the holding of amplified concerts at the newly rebuilt stadium. He also agreed the department had indicated it was prepared to take legal action in the event the Noise Control Ordinance was breached.

By September 1992, the Urban Services Department was aware it was too late to amend the design of the stadium to reduce the noise level, the court heard.

Mr Cheung agreed with Mr Huggins that no one from the Urban Services Department told the company the potential noise problems might restrict usage of the stadium and hence affect its viability.

The government is suing Wembley for 'serious or persistent breach of its obligations'. Its main complaint concerns alleged poor management of the stadium's pitch. Wembley argues the pitch problem was caused by its unsuitable or impractical design and by construction defects. It is counter-claiming for $40 million.

Elaine Chung Lai-kwok, former director of the Urban Services Department, agreed with Mr Huggins the government had been 'very concerned' about its public image in relation to the pitch problem.

The hearing continues today before Mr Justice William Stone.