Public wants bypass now, says official
Harbour advisers criticise deputy over not being consulted before plan released
The government wants to begin the public consultation on how to build the Central-Wan Chai bypass as soon as possible because it was what the people want, a senior official told a group of angry harbour advisers yesterday.
'This meeting is about the concept plan. Once you give your opinion, we will begin the consultation. The people want the bypass; they want it to be built as soon as possible,' said Robin Ip Man-fai, deputy secretary for housing, planning and lands.
He was facing a storm of criticism at a meeting of a subcommittee set up under the Harbour-front Enhancement Committee to take charge of the Wan Chai development review.
Members denounced the government's release on August 24 of a concept plan for the development of the coastline without seeking their advice and demanded to know why it had happened.
'The bypass shouldn't bypass us,' Society for Protection of the Harbour director Hardy Lok said. 'It is unacceptable. I want to file a strong protest and demand a pledge it will not happen again.'
Citizens Envisioning @ Harbour member Ng Mee-kam questioned why the government was in a rush. The Conservancy Association's Alvin Kwok Ngai-kuen said he was shocked. Chan Wai-kwan, a former Town Planning Board member, said the government's move was disturbing.
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 and Golden Bauhinia Plaza in Wan Chai would expand, creating a 4km public promenade from Central to North Point. There would be five themed precincts: arts and culture, a water park, water recreation, heritage, and leisure and recreation.
The subcommittee had scheduled a meeting for last Thursday to listen to the Civil Engineering and Development Department's progress report on the bypass.
The government postponed the meeting on the grounds that the consultant needed more time. But it did not postpone the scheduled briefing to the Town Planning Board last Friday.
Civil Engineering and Development Department project manager Ma Lee-tak said the consultant finished the work on the Thursday so it was possible to brief the board members on time. The document was sent to harbour advisers about the time the briefing began.
'If we had postponed the meeting with the board, we would have had to wait at least two weeks,' an assistant secretary of the bureau, Lydia Lam Sui-ping, said.
The committee also heard that a temporary promenade will be built along the Wan Chai waterfront for pet owners and their animals.
Work on the boardwalk will begin next month, and it is due to open in January. But it will be demolished when work on the Central-Wan Chai bypass begins in 2008.
The walkway, with lawns and seats, as well as a wooden path, will be built between the Convention and Exhibition Centre and the Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club.
'This will be a place for people and pets,' Architectural Services Department senior architect Raymond Fung Wing-kee said, adding that the idea had been inspired by the presence in the area of the headquarters of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
The Wan Chai District Council endorsed the project in May.