The Development Bureau (DEVB) and the Harbourfront Commission (HC) have been committed to taking forward harbourfront development on both sides of the Victoria Harbour. In recent years, we have made efforts in creating “Harbourfront Shared Spaces” under an open management model, which are well-received by the public. Every time, while we are heartened to see the joy of visitors in having fun or taking photos for “checking in” with their family members or friends in the harbourfront areas on both sides of the harbour, we are also driven to ask: how do we consolidate experiences to have a breakthrough in harbourfront development? This time, I have invited the Commissioner for Harbourfront (C for HF) of the DEVB to introduce the latest situation of harbourfront development and the new directions of taking forward harbourfront development.
Upcoming harbourfront projects to be completed
C for HF, Ms LEE Hoi-lun, Leonie, says that at present, promenades of more than 25 kilometres have been opened on both sides of the harbour. It is expected that the total length of the harbourfront promenades will be extended to 34 kilometres in 2028, with additional promenades mainly developed in Kowloon. In particular, the Kai Tak Development Area will enjoy its “harvest”: further to the opening of the first Public Open Space at the Kai Tai former runway at the end of last year, nine more public open spaces of similar kind will be completed in the coming three years, including the open space near the head of Kai Tak Approach Channel as well as the Kai Tak Promenade and landscaped deck near Metro Park. Upon completion of these facilities, the length of the connected promenades in the Kai Tak Development Area will be extended from the existing two kilometres to six kilometres.
Challenges of harbourfront development
In consolidating the experiences over the past 20 odd years, we have found that there is still much room for improvement. Sunset lovers would be familiar with the New Praya in Kennedy Town. Some visitors have shared with Ms Leonie LEE that since the road section facing the Victoria Harbour is a motorway, if the public want to get closer to the waterfront to enjoy the sunset or take photos, they will have to stand by the roadside. This would be unsafe during busy traffic, and would undermine visitors’ experience. We would actively explore the provision of a boardwalk at the aforesaid road section so as to better connect harbourfront spaces for all to enjoy the harbour scene safely.
According to the Protection of the Harbour Ordinance (PHO) (Cap. 531) enacted in 1997, construction of a boardwalk within the boundaries of the harbour, regardless of scale, is regarded as reclamation. The presumption against reclamation in the harbour under the PHO requires that reclamation to be carried out in the harbour must be proven to have an “overriding public need”. Relevant deliberations and decisions should be recorded in writing and “cogent and convincing materials” (CCM) should be prepared to demonstrate that the project has an “overriding public need”. The threshold is rather stringent.
As such, some relatively minor harbourfront enhancement projects, for example, the provision of the aforesaid boardwalk at the New Praya in Kennedy Town or redevelopment of some disused piers (such as the old pier at the former Kai Tak Runway and the Kowloon City Vehicular Ferry Pier in To Kwa Wan), have not been pursued because it might not be able to demonstrate that they have an “overriding public need”.
Separately, the public engagement exercise for the cycle track section between Tsuen Wan Bayview Garden and So Kwun Wat was completed at the end of last year. This cycle track section of about 17 kilometres will form part of the New Territories Cycle Track Network (NTCTN). The NTCTN, with a total length of about 82 kilometres, will run from the east to the west of the New Territories upon completion, providing the public with more options for leisure and recreation. According to the proposed alignment of the cycle track section, it will be necessary to construct temporary working platforms within the boundaries of the harbour during the construction of part of the cycle bridges. Notwithstanding the fact that these platforms will be removed upon completion of the works, preparation of CCM is still required as the works are regarded as reclamation under the PHO.
For visitors to the Water Sports and Recreation Precinct in Wan Chai or the Revitalised Typhoon Shelter Precinct in Causeway Bay, they may be attracted to the “harbour steps” in the precincts. The step-like feature of “harbour steps” allows visitors to get closer to the water and to enjoy an unobstructed view of the Victoria Harbour. The only shortcoming is that the lowest step of the existing “harbour steps” is still some distance away from the water surface. It is because further extending the “harbour steps” into the water would constitute “reclamation”. This has limited the water-friendly experience as the steps could not be gradually extended into the harbour.
Review of the PHO
In recent years, some members in the community have called for review of the PHO to enable early implementation of minor harbourfront enhancement works so as to benefit the general public. We hope to amend the PHO as follows: on the one hand, we will continue to uphold the principle under the existing PHO, that we shall not reclaim land in the harbour for the sake of land creation, and we wish to set out our gate-keeping work in this regard more clearly; on the other hand, we tend to facilitate works involving reclamation that would enhance harbour functions or allow members of the public to enjoy the harbour-related facilities such as landing steps, piers and boardwalks, through introducing a simpler mechanism under the law.
My team and I are now further developing our ideas. We will submit a more specific proposal to the HC and the Legislative Council Panel on Development as well as conducting public engagement in due course.
19 February, 2023Back