Complete rethink needed for West Kowloon 'cultural hub'

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 20 May, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 20 May, 2008, 12:00am

The process of public engagement in stage two of the Urban Design Study for the new Central harbourfront should trigger the introduction of an element into the town planning process that has so far been overlooked - common sense.

Grandiose plans may result in expensive white elephants and significant annual maintenance costs, most unwelcome during inevitable economic downturns. So, it is time to look not only at the Central harbourfront but to produce an overall plan that will most benefit the economy and recreational requirements of the community.

West Kowloon should have an exhibition centre. The high-speed rail link with the mainland network will terminate there and completion of the Kowloon southern link will connect West and East Rail services, providing further direct border links. There is enough space to provide bigger and better facilities.

The existing Convention and Exhibition Centre could then better serve the purpose of a de facto town hall, while providing facilities for conferences and conventions that generate less cargo movement. Removing large trade fairs would greatly relieve pressure on the Hong Kong Island road system and on Admiralty and Wan Chai MTR stations.

Concert halls planned for West Kowloon can be located on the new Central harbourfront. With supporting services in place, they would attract people to the area and ensure the necessary vibrant atmosphere. These venues would also be more convenient for the thousands already in Central five days a week.

Uncertainty regarding completion dates for further cross-harbour rail links and the community's desire that the waterfront not be cut off by multilane highways indicate that commercial and cultural services are best provided in areas that are convenient to the public and incur minimum movement of cargo. The planning process must therefore be holistic rather than selective.

Lack of enthusiasm displayed by the general public in the 'cultural hub' indicates a desire for pragmatism in town planning.

Mary Melville, Tsim Sha Tsui