Court order puts block on Central zoning plan

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 19 January, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 19 January, 2012, 12:00am


Three key redevelopment projects in Central could be delayed after a developer won a court order yesterday that bars town planners from submitting a zoning plan for approval.

The court order would affect projects at the Central Market, the west wing of the Government Hill complex and the Murray Building.

The owner of the Cheung Kong Center in Central secured a Court of Appeal order yesterday which stops the Town Planning Board from submitting the outline zoning plan for Central to the Chief Executive Council for approval.

The board cannot act until a final ruling on an appeal filed by Turbo Top, a subsidiary of Hutchison Whampoa, against an unsuccessful judicial review of a government requirement that it continue providing 800 parking spaces in its building. This requirement blocks its plan to turn 78 of them into a supermarket.

In granting the order, Mr Justice Andrew Cheung Kui-nung left it to the board to decide whether it would submit an amended plan, with the disputed land removed, for approval. The board would not immediately comment. If it decides not to submit such a plan, other redevelopment projects will have to be put on hold.

Civic Party lawmaker Tanya Chan urged the board to change its plan.

'This is the best way to avoid delays to any of the redevelopment projects,' Chan said. 'Although we should respect people's right to launch a judicial review of any government policy they are unhappy with, any delay to a town planning project is undesirable.'

The government plans to build a 32-storey grade-A office tower on the site of the west wing of the old Central Government Office. It also plans to convert the Murray Building into a hotel and lease the site to the private sector.

The Urban Renewal Authority has appointed an architect to work on a revamp of the 72-year-old Central Market.

In November, Mr Justice Anselmo Reyes in the Court of First Instance ruled the Town Planning Board was entitled to require Turbo Top to keep all the spaces for future public benefit - even if they were now underused.

Turbo Top, which was granted the site at Queen's Road Central and Garden Road 15 years ago with a condition on the parking spaces, accused the board of micromanagement.