Opposition poised to derail exhibition centre expansion

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 16 April, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 16 April, 2008, 12:00am

Third phase has slim chance of being approved: source

The proposed third-phase expansion of the Convention and Exhibition Centre is unlikely to be accepted by the government because its impact on the Wan Chai North area could stir up enormous public opposition, according to a source familiar with the project.

The source said the chances of the government approving the proposal were slim.

Media reports have said the proposal, submitted by the Trade Development Council (TDC), calls for a third phase of the centre to be built on land now occupied by public facilities including the bus terminal next to the Great Eagle Centre, the Harbour Road Sports Centre and Wan Chai Sports Ground, a popular location for many schools' sports events.

The source said strong oppositions to the proposal, especially from users of the public facilities in the area, was likely to be a major concern.

Stephen Ng Kam-chun, chairman of Wan Chai District Council's development, planning and transport committee, said: 'We definitely do not want a tall building blocking the view of the harbour and we want the sports facilities to be retained.'

Mr Ng said the council had yet to receive a detailed plan for the third-phase expansion.

He said the expansion was not just an issue for the exhibition industry but also concerned planning in the district. 'We support an expansion because we understand it is important to maintain Hong Kong's leading role in the exhibition industry,' Mr Ng said. 'But this project does not stand alone. It has to be co-ordinated with other developments in the area, such as the proposed new MTR station and the Central-Wan Chai bypass.'

The Commerce and Economic Development Bureau said it had received a proposed conceptual design for the third phase of the centre from the TDC in late 2006.

It said the government was still examining issues related to the proposed project, including planning issues and its impact on traffic and public facilities in the area.

Peter Woo Kwong-ching said in September, when he was TDC chairman, that another 100,000 square metres of exhibition space was needed. The centre's website says it currently has more than 70,000 square metres of rentable function space.

The TDC said another, refined, proposal for the expansion was submitted late last year. It declined to disclose details, saying it was still waiting for a decision from the government.

A TDC spokesman said there had been an urgent demand for exhibition space and the centre's current atrium expansion - which is expected to be completed early next year - would not be able to cope with increasing demand.

He said the TDC had a long waiting list of companies wishing to exhibit at trade fairs but could not accommodate them because of the lack of space. 'For example, there are more than 2,000 companies on the waiting list for the upcoming gift and premium fair, and 1,000 for the electronics fair in the autumn. This shows how great the demand is,' he said.

The atrium expansion was expected to provide an extra 20,000 square metres of exhibition space but that would not be enough in the long run, the spokesman said.