Conservation activists are pushing the preservation of Hong Kong's street markets as an issue for the district council polls in November. Candidates will be asked to make clear their positions on the issue, according to the activists. The 'Save the Street Market' campaign, organised by a coalition of conservation groups, follows the Urban Renewal Authority's plan last week to redevelop Graham and Peel streets in Central into a commercial and residential complex. A 140-year-old street market in the area will be cleared to make way for the HK$3.8 billion project. Coalition spokesman John Batten, a member of the Central and Western Concern Group, said they intended to make the loss of street markets a major election issue. He urged the government to designate Graham, Gage and Peel streets a permanent open-air bazaar and rethink the existing hawker policy. Another activist, Katty Law Ngar-ning, said the redevelopment project would destroy the market and kill the rich and dynamic history of the area. She said: 'The five-year construction period will force hawkers and stall operators to cease business. And the thousands of shoppers who now have a range of choice to shop for fresh food and goods will suddenly have no choice.' The coalition polled 42 shop owners and hawkers in the area and found about half had been operating in the market for more than 40 years. A similar proportion of the operators knew nothing about the redevelopment plans, the coalition said. The project covers a half-hectare area bounded by Cochrange, Gage and Wellington streets. Two residential blocks of 30 and 32 storeys are planned, as well as a 33-storey office tower and a 26-storey hotel. The authority is taking the first step in the redevelopment process by launching a survey of about 1,120 residents in the area. But the coalition yesterday said the preservation of the market would not interfere with the redevelopment of properties.