Shoeshiners in Central have been told they will be given hawker licences next month if no objections are raised by the district council or affected parties in the area.
The Food and Environmental Hygiene Department announced the decision at a closed-door meeting with hawkers yesterday, a lawmaker who was at the meeting said.
Hawkers said they were pleased to be finally given a date for getting their licences, although doubts remained over the stance of a developer planning a 27-storey building on a vacant lot in Theatre Lane where many of the shoeshiners operated.
Democratic Party legislator Kam Nai-wai said he did not expect any objection from district councillors, who unanimously supported the plan in July. But he said: 'We don't know yet whether the developers around Theatre Lane will take legal action against the proposal.'
Developer Luk Hoi Tong, which is building the Theatre Lane tower, could not be reached for comment.
The shoeshiners, who have worked outside the law and have been a fixture of the lane for decades, will receive fixed-location licences that include an operating space of 15cm by 22.5cm for HK$2,590 a year.
The proposal will be discussed by the Central and Western District Council next week and then gazetted.
Luk Hoi Tong has written to the government expressing concern that the shoeshiners working in Theatre Lane could block access of emergency vehicles and affect evacuation.
Kam said officials believed the shoeshiners would not obstruct emergency vehicles and departments, including fire services, had agreed.
Yeung Siu-ying, 73, who has worked in the lane for 10 years, said he was delighted. 'I was afraid that the government would be playing a delaying strategy with us. But now, finally, I know when I will be given a licence,' he said.