Officials have halted the controversial project to fill in more than 23 hectares of Victoria Harbour - at least temporarily. Yesterday's U-turn came a week before the High Court is due to rule on an application to stop the Central reclamation project, and on the eve of today's demonstration against harbour reclamation, which organisers hope will attract 10,000 protesters. It is the latest in a series of concessions to public opinion by the government following the protest march on July 1 that attracted 500,000 people. They include the shelving of the controversial Article 23 security law, relaxation of the policy on pet restrictions in public flats, and the scrapping of proposed cuts in voting hours for the upcoming District Council elections. It is understood the decision was made at a special meeting of the Executive Council yesterday morning. Announcing the suspension of the Central Reclamation III project, Secretary for Housing, Planning and Lands Michael Suen Ming-yeung said it would cost the government about $1 million per day in compensation to contractors until the ruling on the High Court writ was handed down on Friday . Mr Suen denied the government had reacted to public pressure to suspend the project, saying it was only trying to 'halt public disputes'. 'The temporary suspension is made without prejudice to the rights of the government to oppose [the court] application and to the stance of the government which we have maintained ... that the reclamation works currently ongoing in Central are lawful.' The government has continued with the reclamation work despite a High Court ruling last month in favour of the Society for the Protection of the Harbour. The court found that the government's interpretation of the Protection of the Harbour Ordinance was 'fundamentally flawed'. The government's appeal against that ruling is due to be heard later in the year. The society is seeking an injunction to have the work stopped in the meantime. Environmentalists welcomed the announcement, but said the government should have a comprehensive policy to protect the harbour in future. The chairman of the Society for the Protection of the Harbour, Winston Chu Ka-sun, said the organisation would go ahead with today's rally. 'We are pleased that Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa and Executive Council members considered public opinion and suspended the reclamation. The measure is prudent and reasonable,' he said. 'The public should be pleased with the decision because the harbour will not be damaged for the time being.' Man Chi-sum, chief executive officer of Green Power, agreed it was good news but warned that the government should have a long-term and comprehensive policy for conservation. A senior government source confirmed that Mr Tung had given the final go-ahead to the halting of the reclamation at the special meeting of the Executive Council yesterday after officials concluded that the cost of compensating contractors would be acceptable until the court handed down a judgment on the injunction sought by Mr Chu on Friday. 'Even though we decided to halt the reclamation, there is still a lot to think about and the final option needs to be agreed in Exco. And of course there was the problem of money and it was not so simple,' the official said. Meanwhile, Democratic Party chairman Yeung Sum welcomed the government's decision, saying that it should act in accordance with the law and not go ahead with a project that was in 'clear breach' of harbour protection legislation. 'I hoped Tung would learn a lesson from July 1 and widely consult the public before making any decision, and would make changes to [a project's] implementation if he found out it was not well received by the public,' Dr Yeung said. Choy So-yuk, of the Democratic Alliance for Betterment of Hong Kong, said: 'It is good that Tung has learned something, as he cannot be the enemy of the people all the time. It's good to acknowledge your mistakes and make changes.'