Harbour society to appeal against reclamation ruling
Sara Bradford and Hannah Lee
Important issues should be challenged in the public interest, says Christine Loh
The Society for the Protection of the Harbour has decided to appeal against a High Court judgment that cleared the way for the Central harbour reclamation.
Chairwoman Christine Loh Kung-wai said yesterday it was in the public interest to go to the Court of Appeal to get the March 10 decision quashed.
That ruling rejected the society's application to force the government to send the project's plans back to the Town Planning Board for approval.
In his March 10 finding, Mr Justice Michael Hartmann supported the chief executive's powers in the planning process. Ms Loh yesterday said important issues were raised by Mr Justice Hartmann's interpretation of the Town Planning Ordinance.
Permanent Secretary for Housing, Planning and Lands Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor yesterday expressed disappointment over the appeal but said full reclamation works would resume next month and the government would fight the new legal challenge.
Ms Loh said the appeal would examine Mr Justice Hartmann's statement in the ruling.
'It may well have been preferable for the chief executive in council to remit the [Central] plan [to the Town Planning Board], at least regarding the extent of reclamation,' she said.
She also noted that the judge 'made no findings on the merits of the Central reclamation'.
Ms Loh said she was aware some community groups were calling for an end to the legal wrangles so consensus-building could begin.
She said the society did not know why the government refused to refer the Central plans back to the Town Planning Board for review after a Court of Final Appeal judgment ordered such a review for the Wan Chai reclamation plan.
The two plans are interconnected as they both provide land for the Central-Wan Chai bypass.
Ms Loh said the appeal would be heard in the Court of Appeal after the government refused to grant permission for the hearing to go before the Court of Final Appeal.
In an earlier challenge, the society and the government agreed to have the appeal against the Wan Chai project go directly to the Court of Final Appeal. That case established the test that 'overriding need' was required for reclamation under the Protection of the Harbour Ordinance.
Mrs Lam said part of the reclamation work had already been resumed. By early or mid-April, all the works should be under way.