The HK$23 billion basement in West Kowloon Cultural District should house people as well as traffic say some lawmakers, who have proposed an underground city, providing retail and other services, connecting the arts hub to the neighbouring area. But the government said doing so would mean digging deeper into the ground and would increase the bill that the taxpayer would have to foot. At a meeting of the Legislative Council panel monitoring the development of the West Kowloon arts hub, Democrat Helena Wong Pik-wan questioned whether the HK$23 billion serves any purpose beyond traffic and underground parking. "If it is only used for [this], we can't explain to the public why this basement will cost HK$23 billion," she said. The arts hub received an upfront endowment of HK$21.6 billion public money in 2008; a master plan by Norman Foster - under which a basement would house all cars, keeping 23 hectares of open space above ground free from traffic - was selected. The basement will cost an extra HK$23 billion to be covered by the government, which is seeking funding approval from Legco in different phases. Wong highlighted the Japanese city of Osaka, which has a large network of underground facilities, including retail and dining, connecting a wide area. But Betty Fung Ching Suk-yee, Permanent Secretary for Home Affairs, said that Foster's design was for the basement to house traffic only. "If we add other features, we will need to dig one or two levels deeper, and this extra cost will be reflected," Fung said. Ip Kwok-him, lawmaker and member of the pro-government Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, said despite extra costs that have been incurred in the construction of the arts hub and the basement to date, there could be no turning back. "This was the plan we made and we must stick to it," he said. He did not support the idea of adding retail and dining facilities, as the design process could further delay the project. He said it was better to be pragmatic and save money from a more efficient construction plan. In November last year it was revealed the arts hub was facing an overblown budget and delays in funding approval could cost an extra HK$20 million a month. Meanwhile, lawmakers have also expressed concern about the transport network around West Kowloon. They backed proposals for water transport, connecting the arts hub with various districts across Victoria Harbour, but were worried operators may be reluctant to run ferry services if the route proved unprofitable.