Activists ask court to block 'unreasonable' PLA dock plan

Designing Hong Kong files writ against 'illogical, unreasonable' move to rezone Central waterfront site for military use

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 10 May, 2014, 2:59am
UPDATED : Saturday, 10 May, 2014, 4:09am

An urban planning pressure group has asked a court to stop the Town Planning Board from submitting to the government a proposal to rezone part of the new Central waterfront for military use.

In a writ filed in the Court of First Instance, Designing Hong Kong described the move to designate the site as a People's Liberation Army dock as "illogical" and "unreasonable".

It urged the court to review the board's decision, made on February 14, and to put a stay on the submission of the plan to the Executive Council because the group fears the government will make a swift decision.

"As the board has already decided not to make any amendments to the Amended Draft Plan, its submission of that plan and the minutes etc to the Chief Executive in council is merely a matter of formality," the writ filed by the group stated.

In the writ, Designing Hong Kong added that it repeatedly told the board that the administration had promised the new harbourfront would be returned to the people as a place for public enjoyment and that it was clearly zoned as "open space".

Although there was a PLA facility on the site, the group said it was clear that it should be contained within the open space and used only when the military needed it.

In earlier planning, there had been no mention of a "military use" zoning for the site, the group claimed.

However, the board had announced in February that it would submit a draft plan to Exco including this designation. It did not give its reasons for the decision until April 2, the group said.

The group said the board had failed to show any development plan for the PLA site or any evidence that the PLA might require further structures on the site.

It said the board had erred in law by disregarding its statutory duty and general powers.

The group claimed that the board's decision had failed to meet the legitimate expectations of the group and the public that they could enjoy the waterfront promenade.

The board declined to comment as the legal process for the case was already in progress.

The government said last year that the PLA's Hong Kong garrison would use the area only when conducting military training, berthing military vessels, running ceremonial activities and carrying out maintenance to the dock.

Otherwise, except in emergencies or under special circumstances, the area would be open to the public, the government said. But opponents say there is no need to change the zoning to achieve this.

Designing Hong Kong, co-founded by activist and Southern district councillor Paul Zimmerman, has campaigned on harbour issues since 2003.