Planners 'went against their own policy' in giving go-ahead to PLA dock, hears court

Decision to rezone harbourfront land for military use faces challenge

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 04 June, 2014, 4:05am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 04 June, 2014, 4:05am

An urban-planning pressure group yesterday accused the Town Planning Board of acting against its own policy in taking harbourfront land in Central from the public and rezoning it for military use.

Barrister Nigel Kat, representing Designing Hong Kong, made the accusation in asking the Court of First Instance to stay the board's decision and allow a judicial review of it.

"It is contrary to their own policy," Kat said, referring to the decision to rezone a 150-metre strip of the reclaimed Central waterfront for a People's Liberation Army dock.

"This open space is for public use and public access."

He said it was government policy to protect the Victoria Harbour waterfront, in particular preserving public use of the continuous harbourfront promenade despite the use of part of it as a military berth or dock.

Mr Justice Thomas Au Hing-cheung reserved his judgment to an unspecified date and granted an interim stay.

The board decided in February to rezone the middle 150 metres of the promenade, stretching back 20 metres. Critics said the military could still use it when required without the need for rezoning.

Kat said the board had failed to consider the public's legitimate expectation to enjoy the seaside and described its decision as irrational.

Barrister Johnny Mok SC, for the board, argued the site was designated for both military and public use and the board's decision did not breach that use.

He said the site would be open to the public when it was not used for garrison purposes, military training or other military operations.

"The public can continue to enjoy the seaside when operations are not in place," Mok said. He said the board had taken into account all kinds of situations and there was no need for it to change the plan.

He also said it was not necessary for the board to give explanations in response to every opinion that it received from individual parties.

The board announced in February that it would submit a draft plan to the Executive Council including the rezoning of the site for military use.