Lawmakers drop controversial issue from their study of the culture hub project A key obstacle the government faced in building the gigantic Lord Foster-designed canopy at the West Kowloon Cultural District has disappeared, with legislators quietly dropping the controversial issue from their study of the project. The subcommittee on West Kowloon Cultural District development unanimously agreed at a closed-door meeting on September 2 to drop the canopy from its agenda. The revised agenda states it will now focus on the development approach and financial arrangements for the arts hub, the role government and local arts groups will play, and its management structure. Legislators said they had dropped the issue because of time constraints, but an academic described the decision as a political tradeoff. A source close to the government said lawmakers from major political parties would be invited to join a new authority governing the site's development. The canopy, which will cover 55 per cent of the arts hub, was on the agenda when the subcommittee started its work in February. In April, the subcommittee discussed technical aspects of the canopy and passed a resolution demanding more information from the government. In its first report in July, it said it would further examine the canopy in the second report, due in December. Legco has no decision-making power over the project but Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen has said its opinions would be respected. Alan Leong Kah-kit, from the Article 45 Concern Group and subcommittee chairman, described the canopy as 'relatively unimportant and not a matter of principle'. Because time was tight for preparing the second-phase report, legislators need to prioritise issues, he said. But Mr Leong denied the change showed lawmakers had softened their objection to the canopy. 'If the government thinks we're softening our position, they're wrong. It is also possible some members will want to readdress the canopy issue again.' Another member of the subcommittee, who did not want to be named, said Margaret Ng Ngoi-yee, of the Article 45 Concern Group, had proposed dropping the canopy from the study. Ms Ng was not available for comment last night. The 28-strong subcommittee comprises members from all major political parties, and not all of them oppose the canopy idea. Patrick Lau Sau-shing, from The Alliance, and the Liberal Party's Selina Chow Liang Shuk-yee were two of the judges who voted for Lord Foster's concept in the design competition. City University political science professor Anthony Cheung Bing-leung said he believed the political parties were 'willing to trade on the canopy' because they wanted seats on the arts hub authority. 'It will certainly ease the pressure the government faces on how the controversial project will move on,' he said. 'When the government first unveiled the arts hub's development plan, the canopy was a major rallying point for opposition. It was as controversial as the single-tender approach. I'm not sure if it [can be deemed] relatively unimportant.' The canopy is a key reason why Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen insists on the single-developer approach. The government argues it would be impossible to divide the construction and maintenance of the canopy.