Scrapping plan to extend Avenue of Stars a rare instance of officials paying heed to public opinion

Now that the row over the Tsim Sha Tsui Promenade has been resolved, the government should do the same with the cultural hub in West Kowloon

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 18 February, 2016, 12:18am
UPDATED : Thursday, 18 February, 2016, 12:18am

Few people seem to like the plan to extend the Avenue of Stars by adding dining, film and performance hubs onto the eastern part of the Tsim Sha Tsui waterfront. So it’s now been scrapped. Common sense has at last prevailed.

A public consultation has concluded that most people object to the intrusive plan, which required closing the entire site for three years; they just want the harbour view and a nice leisurely walk on the promenade. Only the government and New World Development, manager of the existing avenue that is a major tourist attraction, seem to approve of it. New World was allowed to take charge of the extension plan without an open bid.

The developer has feigned outrage, saying it was doing it not for profit, but in the public interest. Hmmm, the avenue offers a vista to Victoria Harbour from the New World Hotel. The developer could also control the flowing of crowds by its extension design to maximise its control of public spaces.

READ MORE: Plans for controversial extension of Hong Kong’s Avenue of Stars scrapped, but tourist attraction still won’t open until 2018

New World may think it’s being altruistic, but most people think otherwise. Rival property owners and hotel operators in the area such as Sino Group associate Murdoch Investments and Shangri-La Hotel (Kowloon) have applied for a judicial review against the town planners’ decision, which they said was “illegally and unfairly” approved. When the big property guys are fighting each other, you know something more is at stake than mere public interest.

“The public concern is with the design and management,” a government source said. “Based on this, it is now back to what it was.” Under the new plan, New World will not manage the extension, which will now be considerably simpler and much cheaper to build.

The design of the extension will see minor improvements with new pavements, railings and awnings only. Management of the extension, also known currently as the Tsim Sha Tsui Promenade, will remain under the Leisure and Cultural Services Department.

This is one of the rare instances where the government actually listens and scraps what would have been a contentious and possibly disastrous plan. Now, if only they will do the same with the art hub in West Kowloon. Just make do with what’s already been built and finish what’s left with minimal fuss and cost. Then just open the hub to the public. The grass and open spaces are at least nice there.