A government pledge to stop reclaiming land from the harbour has thrown plans for the heavily polluted bay into doubt A $10 billion redevelopment plan to turn contaminated Yau Tong Bay into a residential and tourism hub hangs in the balance following a pledge by the government to reclaim no more land in the harbour after schemes in Central, Wan Chai North and Kai Tak are completed. The East Kowloon development, which was proposed in 1989 and approved in principle in 2002, has been stalled as the government reviews all reclamation projects after a public outcry against harbour reclamation last year. The consortium behind the project, comprising seven developers and 35 shipyard and timber mill owners led by Henderson Land Development, warned that a ban on reclamation could cause a hazardous deadlock. It said the old shipyard area would remain a pool of dead water in the eastern harbour unless the project went ahead. It also warned that about 40,000 people moving into Yau Tong might suffer from pollution because the heavy industries there could resume operations once the project had been cancelled. Consortium representative Szeto Wang, director of Wang Tak Group, said: 'Yau Tong Bay is the ulcer of Victoria Harbour. We understand the public's demand to preserve the harbour. 'But it's time to have cooler heads look at the urgency of recreating wealth for the heavily polluted area as industrial operations fade.' The redevelopment plan, which calls for the reclamation of 12.5 hectares of land from the sea, would transform Yau Tong Bay into a 22-hectare residential and commercial centre. It would provide 10,000 apartments in 40 residential blocks with a total gross floor area of 9.35 million sqft. Also on the plan is a man-made island with restaurants and retail outlets catering for tourists. The project received land reclamation approval from the Environmental Protection Department in 2002. But the Court of Final Appeal last year ruled against new harbour reclamation unless it is passed a test of 'overriding public need'. The associate director of the Chinese University of Hong Kong's Centre for Environmental Policy and Resource Management this week warned against leaving the bay undeveloped. Lai Pong-wai said that, while reclamation might not be the best approach, Yau Tong Bay was integral in the overall plan to revitalise East Kowloon. The centre recently carried out a study on the district. 'Harbour reclamation is a hot potato and a subject many try their best to avoid,' said Mr Lai. 'There is a lack of momentum for developers to turn even the nearby industrial area into a residential-commercial district when heavily polluted Yau Tong Bay remains as it is. It's a pity to waste valuable resources due to political and administrative tangles.' Yau Tong Bay lies between Lei Yue Mun Seafood Village and the Eastern Harbour Crossing. Under the government's plan, Lei Yue Mun will be developed into a tourism landmark for East Kowloon while Kai Tak could become a new community with a cruise terminal. However, the consortium said an interface problem might emerge between the two developments if Yau Tong Bay was not cleaned up. The bay is polluted with heavy metals and mercury from shipbuilding in the 1950s. David Lee Tsung-hei, chairman of the project's consultant David C Lee Surveyors said: 'Does protect and preserve the harbour mean doing nothing? What we're trying to do is bring a new face to Yau Tong by bringing people to enjoy the harbour and enhance the local economy there.' The Yau Tong Bay project is now awaiting further submission to the Town Planning Board for approval. The board secretariat said it had received a research report from the consortium and was consulting the relevant government departments. Mr Lee said dumping the redevelopment plan would, at worst, force landlords to resume industrial activity in the area. But Winston Chu Ka-sun, an outspoken adviser to the Society for the Protection of the Harbour, said the consortium's arguments for the reclamation were unconvincing and there must be other ways to solve the pollution problem. 'There are always good reasons to reclaim the harbour,' Mr Chu said. 'Victoria Harbour is Hong Kong's most precious asset ... Once it is reclaimed there is no turning back.'