Ventilation building will ruin Central harbourfront

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 25 August, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 25 August, 2010, 12:00am

Secretary for Development Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor will no doubt agree that in all her travels to investigate the waterfronts of leading cities in the world - including London, Liverpool, Sydney, Vancouver, San Francisco and Singapore - there is no structure anywhere more hideous and obtrusive than the proposed massive ventilation building for the Central-Wan Chai Bypass at the Central harbourfront.

Until this matter was exposed by your newspaper in recent articles, the public was unaware that the Central harbourfront would be ruined by such a huge, horrendous structure.

It is typical of the callous and short-sighted approach that too many government departments have taken towards the harbour and harbourfront. Hence, the public constantly finds all kinds of ugly structures which completely ruin people's enjoyment of the harbour.

Perhaps the secretary for transport and the Highways Department are not aware of the public commitment announced by Mrs Lam that the Central harbourfront would be world-class with 'a mixture of social, recreational, entertainment, arts and cultural activities, in addition to landscaped open spaces and promenades' ('Maritime Museum will be part of vibrant waterfront at Central', May 19).

The reasons given for their refusal to improve the design and to relocate this ventilation building do not stand up to scrutiny. Firstly, even if the improvement is slightly more expensive, such a big ugly building will stick out like a sore thumb and will forever destroy the scenic beauty of the Central harbourfront, which is priceless.

Secondly, the excuse that the improvement and relocation will cause delay does not make sense.

The construction of the second half of the tunnel under Wan Chai, Causeway Bay and North Point for the Central-Wan Chai Bypass has not even started. Reclamation works will only begin next year and it will take at least seven years for the whole tunnel to be completed.

Fifteen years ago, the then secretary for planning, Tony Eason, led a delegation from the Town Planning Board, including myself, to look at the town planning of Singapore. We learned a great deal. Perhaps the present secretary for planning should do the same so that those responsible for the town planning of Hong Kong today will see the imaginative and visionary approach that Singapore has adopted in designing its waterfront. It is putting Hong Kong to shame.

All officials and departments should support Mrs Lam's new visionary approach to the planning and design of Hong Kong's harbourfront. As the special administrative region's present political system does not provide any means for the general public to vent its frustrations by voting the government out, it is therefore essential for the present administration to demonstrate competence and a sense of responsibility to the people.

Winston K.S. Chu, adviser, Society for Protection of the Harbour