Take reclamation talks back to square one, says hotel developer

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 02 April, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 02 April, 2008, 12:00am

A company in partnership with tycoon Li Ka-shing's Cheung Kong (Holdings) to build a hotel in North Point wants the Wan Chai Bypass and associated reclamation plans taken right back to square one.

Fook Lee Holdings, which is building the hotel on Oil Street in North Point, claims the government violated the Protection of the Harbour Ordinance when it failed to offer a certain plan for public consultation. That scheme would have seen the bypass built as a flyover extending from near the Convention and Exhibition Centre, over the Causeway Bay typhoon shelter to the Island East Corridor.

Fook Lee is seeking a judicial review of a decision by the Town Planning Board not to propose any changes to either the Draft Wan Chai North or Draft North Point outline zoning plans. They make provisions for a tunnel containing the bypass to be built underground, emerging near the site owned by the company.

The application follows a decision last month by the Court of First Instance that certain temporary reclamation works - which the government said were needed to build the bypass tunnel - violated the Protection of the Harbour Ordinance.

In particular, the works did fall under the ordinance and therefore should have been included in all public consultations leading up to the decision to move forward.

The ruling could delay the project by up to four years and might mean significant alterations to the plan - which, as it stands currently, would have works associated with the tunnel portal crossing a portion of the site owned by Fook Lee.

The company claims that at no point during the extensive consultations with government was it ever suggested that it might lose some of its site - for which it paid a HK$942.18 million change-of-use premium in 2005 - to make way for the bypass.

Fook Lee says in its application that the government has violated the law by not going for the option that produced the least actual reclamation - the construction of the flyover.

That mistake was made worse by the fact that the flyover option was never presented to the public as an option at all. It also contends that the total area of the harbour taken up by the flyover plan is far less than the board believes. That is because the construction of pylons to hold up the road is not technically reclamation, and was wrongly counted as works affecting the area of the harbour.

Fook Lee is asking the Court of First Instance to quash the decisions of the board not to propose amendments on its behalf, and for an order requiring the flyover option to be placed before the public as a viable option for the bypass.