URBAN PLANNING

Harbourfront body could manage PLA dock, watchdog Nicholas Brooke says

Watchdog gives a possible solution to who can be in charge when Central site is open to public

PUBLISHED : Monday, 16 June, 2014, 4:53am
UPDATED : Monday, 16 June, 2014, 4:53am
 

The berth area of the People's Liberation Army in Central could be managed by a future harbourfront authority when it is not in use, the waterfront watchdog says.

The suggestion, made by Harbourfront Commission chairman Nicholas Brooke, provides a possible answer on the future of the 150-metre section of waterfront in the heart of the business district.

Town planners approved rezoning the pier area from open space to military use in February, intensifying concerns that it would become inaccessible - despite the government's pledge to open the area for public enjoyment when the PLA was not using it.

It is also unclear who will manage and police the area when the dock is open for public use.

"There has to be a workable arrangement because a lot of time it wouldn't be in military use," Brooke told the South China Morning Post.

He said a future harbourfront authority - for which a law is expected to be drafted by next year - could have a role in ensuring accessibility of the pier.

"When it is not in military use, the community should have access to it," he said. "For those periods, the authority could be liable for the security and the maintenance."

Having said that, he said the commission had yet to discuss with the government the possible legal issues involved.

The PLA berth is covered by a 1994 Sino-British defence agreement, which states that 150 metres of the eventual permanent waterfront should be left free for a military facility after reclamation work between Central and Wan Chai is completed.

But confusion has arisen over whether this means the land must be handed to the military.

In May, pressure group Designing Hong Kong sought a judicial review against the Town Planning Board's decision to rezone the pier area.

The High Court granted a stay of the board's decision, so it could not be endorsed by the Executive Council until the legal row ended.

The South China Morning Post has reported that the Security Bureau is studying the need to amend the Public Order Ordinance, which now requires a person wishing to enter any PLAoccupied place to obtain a permit from the garrison's commander.

The bureau declined to comment on the possible amendment, but said it would take appropriate steps to move the matter forward in due course.

Brooke said a future authority would take better care of the waterfront. "This is a potential escape valve for the community. The quality of life has become a high priority of people and part of it is enjoying the waterfront."

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