HK$172.6m to give harbourfront access
The government has proposed spending an extra HK$172.6 million to ensure the public has access to part of the new Central harbourfront despite a delay in building a road tunnel.
Construction of the 950-metre tunnel, which is a section of the Central-Wan Chai Bypass and involves reclamation, has not started because of judicial challenges. The strip of land involved on the harbourfront now lies idle while public consultations continue.
A government spokesman said yesterday that protection works for the tunnel would be done so that the whole piece of newly reclaimed land in Central - including the tunnel site - could be freed up as soon as possible for other harbourfront developments.
Without the works, the new Central harbourfront would not be open for public use until 2013 after the tunnel is completed. With the works, the harbourfront is expected to be available to the public in 2011.
The protection works will comprise building diaphragm with a top slab along the future tunnel alignment, ensuring the tunnel box can be safely built underground in future without opening up the land.
This will save the trouble of digging up the land to make way for tunnel works. The proposed works project will create 1,390 jobs, including 1,130 labourers and 260 professional and technical posts.
Meanwhile, a High Court judge ruled yesterday that the government should not be liable to pay for three lawyers who represented a group that won the bid to stop temporary land reclamation for the Central-Wan Chai Bypass.
Mr Justice Michael Hartmann praised the Society for the Protection of the Harbour and its 'entirely altruistic' efforts, but questioned the need to hire a trio of lawyers to fight its case.
Two lawyers, not three, would have been reasonable, the judge wrote in his ruling.
But the society 'acted again in protection of the public interest to protect a public asset - our harbour - which is central to our identity and heritage', he said in the judgment.
Mr Justice Hartmann awarded the society its legal costs in March after the group won a battle that forced the government to prove further reclamation served an overriding public need. But the two sides could not agree on how much the government should pay. The legal fight concerned a plan to temporarily reclaim 10.7 hectares in and around the Causeway Bay typhoon shelter during construction of the bypass.
A matter of time
The government says the extra works are needed to allow public access
It claims not going ahead with the project would prevent use of the Central harbourfront for another: