GOVERNOR Chris Patten is expected to be met with a storm of protest this morning over the controversial phasing-out of a community development project. Social workers will submit a petition to Mr Patten and Executive Councillors as part of a series of protests planned to encourage support for the Neighbourhood Level Community Development Project. The social workers believe the Executive Council will discuss the project today or in the next two weeks. In July, the Home Affairs Branch revealed it would submit to the council this month a proposal on phasing out the project. Last night, dozens of social workers held an overnight vigil outside the Central Government Offices in Central. They were due to stay there all night unless a No 8 typhoon signal was hoisted. 'We are all very keen to know about the future of the project - whether it will be cut, maintained or expanded,' said Lilian Law Suk-kwan, of the Hong Kong Council of Social Service. 'We hope to try our best to win approval from the councillors, otherwise thousands of people living in deprived areas will suffer.' The project, started in 1978, provides counselling, community education and development programmes for people in the territory's poorest areas. The Government says client numbers are dropping and resources would be better directed towards the elderly and disabled. Cheung Kwok-che, vice-president of the Hong Kong Social Workers' General Union, said: 'We will run a series of marathon protests to let the councillors and the public understand how important the community project is.' A joint statement, signed by more than 430 individuals and organisations and published in newspapers yesterday, demanded Exco keep the project and set up an independent committee to review it. A demonstration of about 1,000 people is being planned for Sunday in Chater Garden. Dr Law Chi-kwong, legislator from the Social Welfare functional constituency, urged the Government to review the projects. Dr Law, a lecturer at Hong Kong University's Department of Social Work and Social Administration, said the roles between the Home Affairs and the Health and Welfare branches should be clearly defined. At present the Home Affairs Branch is responsible for the project.