Hearing to begin over 'temporary' reclamation

PUBLISHED : Monday, 04 February, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 04 February, 2008, 12:00am

A legal attempt to halt a government plan for temporary reclamation close to the Wan Chai waterfront is due to open in the High Court today.

The Society for the Protection of the Harbour has been granted a judicial review of proposals to temporarily reclaim 10.7 hectares of the harbour around the planned Central-Wan Chai bypass tunnel.

Permanent reclamation proposed for the Wan Chai harbourfront has been reduced from 26 hectares to 15 hectares following a landmark ruling by the Court of Final Appeal in 2004. That ruling forced the government to send the plans back to the drawing board.

But on July 29 last year, the Transport and Housing Bureau announced 'ancillary works' for the bypass in the Government Gazette, including 'temporary phased reclamation works' and a 'temporary breakwater'.

The society, which has set up a HK$5 million war chest for the civil action, claims the temporary reclamation in and around the Causeway Bay typhoon shelter would cause extensive damage to the harbour, and says the adverse impact will be felt for many years.

Winston Chu Ka-sun, the society's adviser and former chairman, said: 'I feel it is imperative to take action again. Theoretically, the government could reclaim the whole harbour just by promising that they will dig it up again.

'I don't believe it is a temporary reclamation - especially the breakwater. It will be so massive that it is almost impossible to remove. And no one seems to know about the temporary reclamation.

'It is not fair on the Hong Kong public that they have not been consulted,' he said.

But a bureau spokeswoman said many public bodies, including the Town Planning Board, Hong Kong Island district councils and the Legislative Council's former planning, land and works panel, had been told about the plan. It had also been highlighted in a two-week public exhibition last summer.

A total of 8.3 hectares of temporary reclamation was needed for construction work on the bypass tunnel from Wan Chai to the Island Eastern Corridor, she said.

The 2.4-hectare temporary breakwater would be built 420 metres from the Causeway Bay promenade, to create a mooring shelter for boats moved out of the typhoon shelter to make way for the temporary reclamation work.

The breakwater would not obstruct navigation in the harbour, she said.

'Construction works for the project are scheduled to start in late 2008 or early 2009. Tentatively, the temporary works will be removed and the seabed reinstated in 2015.'

The judicial review was granted by the Court of First Instance on October 8.

Mr Justice Michael Hartmann said that he considered the issue to be 'a matter of public importance'.

Milestones in harbour battle

June 30, 1997: Protection of the Harbour Ordinance passed by outgoing colonial government before handover

March 15, 2003: High Court grants interim injunction to Society for Protection of the Harbour against work on Wan Chai reclamation plan until judicial review is completed

July 8, 2003: High Court rules Town Planning Board failed to comply with Protection of the Harbour Ordinance over Wan Chai reclamation plan, and orders it to reconsider plan

Oct 6, 2003: High Court dismisses society's application for interim injunction to halt work on Central reclamation

Dec 6, 2003: Court of Final Appeal rules government must pay full 'indemnity' costs to society for its legal victory over Wan Chai plan

Jan 9, 2004: Court of Final Appeal upholds High Court's decision on Wan Chai reclamation

March 9, 2004: High Court rejects society's application for judicial review of decision not to send Central reclamation plan back to Town Planning Board

Oct 8, 2007: High Court grants society leave to apply for judicial review of plans for temporary reclamation near Wan Chai waterfront