ENVIRONMENT

Victoria Park to shrink as traffic flow trumps trees

Slip road for new Central-Wan Chai Bypass will reduce space, facilities and greenery, and seems to have escaped district councillors' notice

PUBLISHED : Monday, 12 August, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 12 August, 2013, 7:24am

A slip road for a new highway linking Central and Wan Chai is set to cut through Victoria Park, reducing its size by 20,000 square feet and stripping it of 350 trees.

While work on the slip road was approved in 2009 and quietly started in March, district councillors and government advisers are hardly aware of the development that will intrude into the city's largest urban park.

"We were not aware the road would cut into the park until recently," said Jennifer Chow Kit-bing, an Eastern District Council member representing the Victoria Park constituency.

"It will look weird and ruin the peace and quiet."

She said she could not recall discussions or papers about the slip road.

"Now I'm concerned the road will bring air pollution and noise in the park," she said, adding that she would ask the Highways Department for more details and urge it to install noise barriers.

According to a recently published departmental newsletter, the slip road will link up with Tsing Fung Street and encroach on the park's northern side. As it exits the park, the slip road will go underground to lead into the bypass tunnel to Central.

Some of the park's facilities will be destroyed, including a bowling green, a children's playground, a nursery compound and a nearby pond. All the facilities except the pond will be reconstructed elsewhere.

The department said the road would occupy about 1 per cent of the park, which covers 19.6 hectares. Construction work would deprive the public of about 7 per cent of the park's area.

The loss of public space will be compensated by new land being reclaimed on the Wan Chai and North Point harbourfronts as part of the bypass project, the department said, responding to a letter of complaint that was copied to the Post.

Paul Zimmerman, a member of the now defunct Harbourfront Enhancement Committee, said he could not recall discussions about the slip road when the committee scrutinised the overall design and alignment of the bypass between 2004 and 2006.

"The slip road must have been in the overall bypass plan, which went through various consultations," he said. "But nobody remembers [the park section] … because the focus was on whether we needed the bypass, and the areas that required reclamation."

Apart from taking away park space, the road work will also mean that 290 trees in the park will be removed. Some 250 will be transplanted within the park and the other 40 will go to other sites in the bypass project. Another 60 trees will simply be cut down.

Professor Jim Chi-yung, a tree expert at the University of Hong Kong, said that transplanting the trees could be problematic.

He said: "As Victoria Park is already crowded, I wonder how the transplants can be accommodated … to allow [the trees] to thrive and expand, and remain stable in the decades to come."