Advisers hit out over 'hijacked' harbour plan

PUBLISHED : Monday, 28 August, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 28 August, 2006, 12:00am

Two harbour advisers have demanded the government withdraw the Wan Chai development proposal and apologise for hijacking the issue. They warned that such practice had weakened the legitimacy of building the controversial Central-Wan Chai bypass.

The criticism comes after the Civil Engineering and Development Department briefed Town Planning Board members on Friday on the latest blueprint for the Wan Chai waterfront.

In response, a government spokesman said that Friday's briefing was an update on progress, and had not been a public consultation.

It was the first time the government had presented a harbour blueprint to the board without first seeking the Harbourfront Enhancement Committee's endorsement or involving the advisory body in the presentation. 'The government is setting a very bad precedent. They bypassed the committee and hijacked our brainchild,' said Society for Protection of the Harbour director Hardy Lok. Mr Lok, a committee member, demanded the government withdraw what had been released and apologise.

Under the blueprint, a bypass involving 15 hectares of reclamation between Central and North Point would be completed by 2015. Victoria Park would be extended to the waterfront, Golden Bauhinia Plaza in Wan Chai would expand, creating a 4km public promenade from Central to North Point. There are five themed precincts: arts and culture, a water park, water recreation, heritage, and leisure and recreation.

When the harbour committee met last month, advisers demanded the government and the consultant come up with a concept plan for them to comment on before releasing it for another round of public consultation later this year. The advisers were scheduled to meet officials last Thursday to listen to the progress report but the government postponed the meeting as the consultant needed more time.

Leung Kong-yui, who chairs the Wan Chai development review subcommittee under the advisory group, said: 'The government should explain why we were not invited.'

He had been to the board twice and the Legislative Council four times in the past two years to present Wan Chai development plans on behalf of the committee. The Court of Final Appeal ruled in 2004 that reclamation in Victoria Harbour must meet the principle of overriding public need.

A spokeswoman for the Housing, Planning and Lands Bureau said Friday's presentation was 'just a progress update'.

'It was not a public consultation. We are in the process of setting up a meeting with the committee. The stage-two consultation will begin in mid-September.'