THE Government is looking at renting out part of the Container Terminal 9 (CT9) site on a short-term basis, amid repeated assurances it has no plans to scrap the controversial project. Port Development Board secretary Tony Clark said the board proposed inviting midstream operators to bid for short-term tenancy of the Tsing Yi Island land. He said the plan was awaiting approval from the Lands Department and was up for discussion by the Kwai Tsing District Board next month. The 10-hectare site has been vacant since CT9 was dragged into the Sino-British row in late 1992. The Government awarded the CT9 development rights to a Jardines-led consortium and another led by Modern Terminals and Hong Kong International Terminals. China criticised the Government for awarding the project under a private treaty grant and accused it of giving Jardines a share in exchange for its support of Governor Chris Patten's political reforms. Mr Clark stressed the Government would not give up CT9 or re-tender it. But the latest proposal made better use of the site and provided relief to existing port facilities. He said officials had talked to the two CT9 groups, who indicated they would need three months to prepare for the project - even if China gave it the green light tomorrow. The companies, had to update the two-year-old contracts and arrange use of earth-movers and dredgers. That was the reason the board had suggested putting out the lot on a three-month lease, subject to a one-month renewal, he said. Officials only planned to rent the southern section of the site, which was about 4.7 hectares, because the northern part was too close to residential developments. To ensure the already busy Tsing Yi South Bridge was not overloaded, the proposal recommends restricting the site for marine-access container activities. If everything went well, tenders could be invited by mid-summer. Mr Clark said officials had also talked to midstream operators, some of whom had indicated interest in taking up the site, despite the short-term lease. Midstream operators use barges to move cargo. A spokesman for the Kwai Tsing District Lands Office said the department was still looking into the proposal. Kwai Tsing District Lands Officer Robert Greenaway said the issue had been considered some months ago. He said planners were in a dilemma because if they left the site vacant, they would be accused of wasting a valuable commodity. If they rented it out, they might end up delaying CT9. Democratic Party legislator Lee Wing-tat said he opposed the plan because of the possible nuisance to residents. Citing examples of other midstream operation sites, Mr Lee said they created noise pollution. 'We have demanded the CT9 site be granted for short-term use which would neither cause environmental nuisance or put extra pressure on traffic,' he said. 'I have never seen any form of midstream operation which does not create noise.'