Fears over access to Central coastline

PUBLISHED : Friday, 03 May, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 03 May, 2013, 5:40am


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Harbourfront Commission members have expressed concern over public access to the new Central coastline which will be split by a military berth.

At a meeting yesterday commission chairman Nicholas Brooke said he noted objections to the government plan to rezone the 0.3-hectare berth site from "open space" to "military use" for the People's Liberation Army.

"The real concern is the extent of public access," he said.

He called it a "planning debate" and said he would leave the Town Planning Board to judge, while asking members to speak.

Margaret Brooke, noting that the berth had been planned for a long time, called the rezoning "insensitive". "[The land] would no longer be part of our waterfront," she said.

She said the PLA would get what it needed with the existing open space zoning.

Harbour protection groups that oppose the rezoning have said they do not object to the provision of the berth, required under a 1994 Sino-British deal, but they say an open space zoning would be enough to enable the military to use it.

The government says the PLA has promised to open the berth for public passage when it is not in use, but commission member Paul Zimmerman said such an arrangement had "no established procedure".

He suggested the government instead should keep the open space zoning and close the pier when military vessels visited.

Secretary for Development Paul Chan Mo-po reiterated that the rezoning was "a technical amendment" and he would leave it to the Town Planning Board.

Although the site is yet to be rezoned, four structures have been built there. The minister has said the government structures do not require town planning approval, but opponents said a "pier" was an item that required such approval in the present open-space zoning, accusing the government of bypassing rules.

The board has received thousands of public submissions on the rezoning proposal.