Detractors fear West Kowloon project's canopy, which led to its controversial tendering method, makes upkeep pricey The costs of maintaining the giant canopy covering the controversial West Kowloon cultural development would be 'shockingly' expensive, a group of professionals opposed to the project told legislators yesterday. Engineers, architects and cultural sector representatives said the 22-hectare canopy - which they described as a mere decoration - was not feasible or necessary. The complexity of the canopy, designed by renowned British architect Lord Foster, was one of the key factors in the government's decision to award the tender for the $24 billion project to a single consortium. At a joint meeting of Legco's home affairs and planning, lands and works panels yesterday, engineers and architects asked if the government had considered the potential problems associated with the canopy, such as the effects of a fire or a typhoon. The arts critics charged that the canopy had nothing to do with arts or culture. Of the 16 organisations which attended the meeting, none offered full support to the government proposal. Alex Chan Siu-kun, president of the Hong Kong Institute of Engineers, said it would be prohibitively expensive to maintain the canopy. 'Commercial buildings cost several million dollars a year to maintain. This structure would certainly cost a lot more,' he said. Professor Bernard Lim Wan-fung, a spokesman for the Hong Kong Institute of Architects, said the canopy would present firefighters with difficulties in the event of a blaze. 'And why should we build such a greenhouse?' he asked. Deputy Secretary for Housing, Planning and Lands Thomas Tso Man-tai said he was disappointed with the criticism. He said the design was approved by the selection panel of an international design competition last year. 'You should go back and read the document first. If you don't have the document, we can provide you with the information. We consulted the public and received widespread support for the canopy concept. The public thinks it is a very creative idea,' he said. He said the government did not plan to change the canopy design. Mr Tso also rejected a call by legislators to suspend the bidding process for the tender. 'Many parties have expressed an interest in the project. They are very sincere and may have started working on their proposals. It would be very difficult to suspend the project at this stage.' Chief Secretary Donald Tsang Yam-kuen, Secretary for Housing, Planning and Lands Michael Suen Ming-yeung and Secretary for Home Affairs Patrick Ho Chi-ping had to miss yesterday's meeting because they needed to attend the weekly sitting of the Executive Council. Democratic Party legislator Albert Ho Chun-yan, The Frontier legislator Emily Lau Wai-hing and Liberal Party chairman James Tien Pei-chun demanded they attend next week's meeting. Meanwhile, the vice-chairman and managing director of Sun Hung Kai Properties, Thomas Kwok Ping-kwong, expressed confidence in the government plans for the project and said: 'The process of bidding is very transparent. 'Our company does not specialise in cultural development, but we would hire the best company in the field for the West Kowloon project [if awarded the tender],' he said, adding successful cultural developments in New York and London were run by private companies.