Stalled harbour plans can proceed
The development minister says the goodwill expressed by harbour protection activists over reclamation will encourage her colleagues to put forward small projects to enhance the harbourfront.
Secretary for Development Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor said she was glad to hear that the Society for Protection of the Harbour would not launch any more legal challenges to the government as long as reclamation projects were small and brought major benefits to the public.
'This gives us greater courage to look at [those projects] ... instead of being too fearful,' Lam said.
She said officials would speed up project plans that had stalled because of concerns over legal challenges. One such project is a bridge connecting Kwun Tong and the area around the old airport runway.
Lam was speaking at a Harbourfront Commission meeting yesterday, where Winston Chu Ka-sun, adviser to the society, introduced what he called the 'proportionality principle' for interpreting a judgment of the Court of Final Appeal in 2004. The court ruled that any future reclamation must satisfy an 'overriding public need' test.
'If reclamation is minor and brings benefits to the public in enjoying the harbour, our position is, why not?' said Chu, who launched several judicial reviews over government reclamation projects to build roads in the past decade.
He also urged the government to set up a statutory harbour authority to conduct public consultations and decide on future reclamation.
Lam said Chu's proposal offered 'symbolic meaning' rather than a technical solution.
'At the end of the day, whether a reclamation is minor is not a matter for you or me to decide because there can be a fourth party who could go to court.
'We should not tamper with the Court of Final Appeal judgment in terms of legal compliance,' she said, adding that the government would never proceed with major reclamation projects.
She said works departments were required to conduct public consultations before proposing reclamation projects and to minimise their scope.
Lam said she would see how Chu's principle could be incorporated into the policy.
Vincent Ng Wing-shun, a commission member and architect, welcomed the society's goodwill because officials had shied away from creative waterfront enhancement projects in the last seven years.