The government's decision to dismantle Queen's Pier goes against the central government's principles on heritage conservation, according to a joint declaration signed by 17 conservation groups yesterday. Paul Zimmerman of Designing Hong Kong Harbour District, one of the declaration's signatories, said the government had failed to show that the building of a four-lane road and the work leading to it were of national importance, as the central government's legislation requires. Other signatories to the declaration include Heritage Watch, Heritage Hong Kong, Civic Act-up, See Network, the Conservancy Association, Dragon Garden Charitable Trust, The 30s Group, and the Society for Protection of the Harbour. Under the Principles for the Conservation of Heritage Sites in China, which the central government implemented from 2000, a heritage site could be removed only in response to uncontrollable natural threats or because the development project was of national importance, Mr Zimmerman said. Conservationists also criticised the government's recent technical and costs justifications for demolishing the pier as 'an attempt to divert public attention'. They demanded a comprehensive reassessment on the pier's cultural value and a new location for the road linking the IFC and Admiralty, for which the pier has to make way. The principles also recommend minimal intervention, conservation of the remains in their historic condition and preservation of the heritage site's setting. Queen's Pier, a traditional landing point for British governors and royalty when they arrived on Hong Kong Island during colonial times, will hand over its function to Pier Number Nine from next Thursday. Government engineers, citing technical difficulties and extra costs, said the pier had to be dismantled first to avoid delaying reclamation in Central. The government will consult the public on where to place a reconstructed pier. Officials plan to submit a funding request to the Legislative Council next month for the extra work and costs for dismantling the pier but would not discuss a timetable or cost. Local Action's Ho Loy, who was arrested in December for protesting against the demolition of the former Star Ferry Pier, said: 'What happened during Star Ferry Pier was accidental. We don't want to it to be repeated.'