Developer's colony or model of consistency?

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 03 January, 2004, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 03 January, 2004, 12:00am

Controversy surrounding the West Kowloon development centres on the government's decision to award a single consortium the right to build and run the 40-hectare site for 30 years.

Critics have warned the idea will turn the area into a 'developer's colony', but the government argues that consistency is required, given that 55 per cent of the site will be covered by a single structure - a partially transparent canopy, designed by British architect Lord Norman Foster, that would be the world's largest roof.

Although the innovative design was approved by a selection panel after an international design competition in 2002, the giant roof has become another subject of controversy. Some local engineers, architects and cultural sector representatives say they fear the canopy will be 'shockingly' expensive. Describing it as a mere decoration, they have said it is neither feasible nor necessary.

There was a public outcry last November when the South China Morning Post reported that the government was attempting to bypass the Town Planning Board by exempting most aspects of the development, including hotels, residential blocks and commercial complexes, from approval by the board.

The board later supported the government's view that most aspects of the development did not need its approval.

Although the board yesterday endorsed a new two-stage approval process, which it says addresses the public's concerns, debate on the project is expected to continue even after the tendering process, which is likely to end in June.