Legal fight looms over ferry pier plans

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 07 December, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 07 December, 2006, 12:00am

Harbour activists will soon launch a new legal battle against the government, with an injunction to prevent it from pulling down the old Star Ferry pier building.

They will also file a planning application with the Town Planning Board in an effort to make the preservation of the 48-year-old building a legal requirement.

Activist Paul Zimmerman urged the government to suspend the demolition immediately.

'We are working on the town planning application and the injunction. It would be very nasty if they demolish as much as they can, or even the clock tower, before we file the injunction,' said Mr Zimmerman, convener of the Designing Hong Kong Harbour District group.

Sources familiar with the issue say that as the pier building was in the middle of the low-rise portion of a shopping mall planned for the site, preserving it would probably cost the government land revenue.

The Planning Department yesterday admitted the clock tower was in the area planned for the mall.

The department's study on ways to improve the new Central waterfront, which began two months ago, will form the basis of the injunction.

'The government is committed to studying the site, and pulling down the pier building will frustrate the study,' Mr Zimmerman said.

But Secretary for Housing, Planning and Lands Michael Suen Ming-yeung said the pier was neither a declared monument nor a graded historical building and reiterated it would not be preserved.

'In the context of the Central reclamation urban design study undertaken by the Planning Department, the government would consider, from an urban planning perspective, how to incorporate the special features of the Star Ferry pier in the design of the new Central harbourfront,' he said in a written reply in the Legislative Council.

Mr Zimmerman said the clock tower could be incorporated into the shopping centre.

'They could ... make it the atrium. There is no technical or financial reason not to do so,' he said.

Conservationists have intensified their campaign to save the pier building in the past few months. They launched a marathon sit-in protest against the demolition shortly after the pier building was closed on November 12.

Mr Zimmerman said the activists were still not sure which group would file the planning application or injunction but would make a decision soon.

In 2003, activists took the government to court over reclamation plans. The Society for Protection of the Harbour sued the Town Planning Board early that year for violating the Harbour Protection Ordinance in planning to do reclamation work from the Convention Centre towards Causeway Bay.