Businesses and commuters in Central have backed a proposal by green groups to make a section of a major thoroughfare in the district off-limits for vehicular passage, claiming the move could help boost pedestrian activity and thus drive business. Under the proposal, the lanes adjoining either side of the tram tracks along a one-kilometre stretch of Des Voeux Road Central - from Pedder Street to Morrison Street - would be set aside for pedestrian use only. But the centre strip of the road would still be open for trams and environmentally-friendly buses. "Under our proposal there would no longer be traffic jams in Central," said Kwong Sum-yin, chief executive of Clean Air Network. "During lunchtime, office workers can come down here and have lunch with their friends. With less traffic, the air will also be fresher." Kwong's group, together with Friends of the Earth, the Conservancy Association, and Designing Hong Kong, submitted their proposal to the Town Planning Board last week. Their proposal serves to counter a controversial submission by retired planner Sit Kwok-keung to rip up tram tracks in Central and Admiralty to create more space for cars and buses. Sit submitted his proposal to the board last month, and today is the last day of the three-week public consultation triggered by his application. To date the board has received more than 15,000 written responses to Sit's suggestion. Lee Cheung-hing, a street vendor who has been selling clothes along Des Voeux Road Central for 30 years, believes the green groups' proposal would help drive business. "During Occupy Central when the nearby roads were blocked, my business actually improved because there were more people walking on the streets," the 72 year old said. "When the vehicles are running on the road, it is not like the passengers can or will immediately stop if they see a shop they like. So if people actually had to walk, that would help my business." Lee described the air pollution along the road at present as "terrible". Brian Au Yeung, owner of a shop that sells Chinese delicacies such as carrot cakes and water chestnut cakes, also supports the plan. "It's a good idea to give pedestrians more space because Hong Kong is so crowded," said Au Yeung, who runs a shop on Graham Street, a few blocks from the thoroughfare. He added that the tram is a unique symbol of the city and should therefore not be removed. Maggie Ng, who works in Central, backed the idea and said it would not be burdensome for her to move about the proposed pedestrian-only area. She said the MTR stations in the district were conveniently located. "The trams must stay," she added. "We cannot say the trams need to get off the roads because they are old. People get old too." However, commuter Eva Li was less enthusiastic about the green groups' proposal, as she feared new traffic jams might emerge. "If vehicles are not allowed on Des Voeux Road Central, chances are many of them will need to use the side streets and that could be a problem," she said. The green groups said they submitted their proposal to the board because they want the public to know that anyone in Hong Kong could play a role in the city's urban planning. Melonie Chau Yuet-cheung, senior environmental affairs officer at Friends of the Earth, said the trams could travel faster under the plan. She cited an earlier study as determining that the trams operating on Des Voeux Road Central are 20 per cent slower than they could be due to existing traffic.