Hong Kong real estate group backs plan to give Central road to pedestrians

Proposal bygreen groups aims to bring fresh air and better environment to Central by making a section of Des Voeux Road off-limits to vehicles

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 09 September, 2015, 1:02am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 09 September, 2015, 1:02am

Momentum has been gradually building in business and environmental protection groups for fresher air and better urban planning in Hong Kong's central business district.

Ivan Ko Kwong-woon, the chairman of the Hong Kong chapter of the China Real Estate Chamber of Commerce, said the chamber backed the proposal by the city's green groups to make a section of a major thoroughfare in Central off-limits for vehicular traffic.

"The proposal will give fresh air to Central and a safer environment for pedestrians. With a better environment, businesses will improve in the area," Ko said.

Under the proposal submitted by the Clean Air Network, the Conservancy Association, Designing Hong Kong and Friends of the Earth, the lanes adjoining either side of the tram tracks along a one-kilometre stretch of Des Voeux Road Central - from Pedder Street to Morrison Street - would be set aside for pedestrian use only.

The centre strip would still be open for trams and environmentally friendly buses. The rezoning proposal has been submitted to the Town Planning Board.

"We will take a proactive role in lobbying landlords in the area to support the change. A better environment will improve businesses. For example, we can have outdoor cafes along the street," Ko said.

The idea of bringing food trucks to the city's streets, initiated by Financial Secretary John Tsang Chun-wah, could materialise if the proposal went ahead, he said.

But Ko said the chamber did not agree to keep clean buses in the section. "It will affect traffic in the section," he said.

According to the proposal, the rezoning will not result in serious traffic jams in Central, given that the government is making huge investments to improve the city's transport infrastructure, including the recently opened MTR West Island Line and the upcoming launches of the Central-Wan Chai Bypass, the MTR South Island Line and the Sha Tin-Central railway line.

A similar idea of allowing pedestrians and trams to use roads in Central was first initiated by the Hong Kong Institute of Planners in 2000.

The latest proposal serves to counter a controversial submission by retired planner Sit Kwok-keung to rip up tram tracks in Central and Admiralty to create more space for cars and buses.

The chamber of commerce is a non-profit body representing the property sector in the city. Founded 13 years ago, it has 288 members from developers, private equity real estate funds and professionals.