Hutchison Whampoa

Activists fear zoning changes will cut open public space

PUBLISHED : Friday, 21 January, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 21 January, 2011, 12:00am

Moves to turn a public car park inside tycoon Li Ka-shing's corporate headquarters into a supermarket have sparked fears that the government could be preparing the groundwork to slash the amount of open public space in Central District.

Hutchison Whampoa - which manages the 62-storey Cheung Kong Center - want to convert 78 of 800 public car parking spaces inside the building into a supermarket under existing zoning conditions which allow for a mixture of public and commercial uses. They say the car park is underused.

However, the government opposes the move because it wants to rezone the area around the Queen's Road skyscraper - which includes a public park - to make it a purely commercial area, with restrictions.

These restrictions would safeguard the public park, but activists fear the zoning changes form part of a wider government vision to commercialise the area.

They are worried that a yet-to-be passed government plan to demolish the West Wing of the Central Government Offices on Government Hill to make way for commercial development may be extended to cover the park.

Cheng Lai-king, a Democratic Party councillor in Central and Western District, said: 'The park is for public use. I can't imagine what will happen to the park if the Planning Department gets its way and turns the entire site into a commercial zone.'

The row between Hutchison and the Planning Department comes to a head today when town planning officials meet to make a decision.

The Planning Department said the rezoning aimed to 'reflect the completed developments and to clearly show the planning intention of the site'. Hutchison Whampoa declined to comment.

Existing zoning for the Cheung Kong Center stems from when Hutchison combined three sites and paid the Lands Department HK$3.02 billion for them in a private deal in 1996.