First decisions taken on West Kowloon cultural district project

The Government has set up a high-level Steering Committee, chaired by the Chief Secretary for Administration, to co-ordinate the Government's own input to the West Kowloon Cultural District project and monitor project implementation. Today (October 2), the Housing, Planning and Lands Bureau announced two decisions made by the Steering Committee to take forward the project.

First, the Steering Committee has decided in principle to adopt the concept plan submitted by Foster and Partners as the basis for the masterplan for the project.

Second, it has decided to commission a study of the Government's options for financial involvement in the project.

Elaborating on the decisions, the Permanent Secretary for Housing, Planning and Lands (Planning and Lands), Mr John C Tsang, said that these were essential preparatory steps towards the eventual invitation of development proposals.

"We attach great importance to the development of the West Kowloon Cultural District. It will provide Hong Kong with world class arts and cultural facilities in a setting that will be a magnet for both residents and tourists. It will also be a boost to the construction industry and create many jobs," he said.

The Steering Committee met for the first time a few weeks ago. Members of the Steering Committee include the Secretary for Housing, Planning and Lands, Mr Michael Suen; the Secretary for the Environment, Transport and Works, Dr Sarah Liao; the Secretary for Home Affairs, Dr Patrick Ho; the Secretary for Financial Services and the Treasury, Mr Frederick Ma and the Permanent Secretary for Housing, Planning and Lands (Planning and Lands), Mr John C Tsang. The relevant Departments are also represented.

The Steering Committee's role is to co-ordinate the Government's contribution to the successful development of this complex project. In the early stages, it will examine in particular what major arts and cultural facilities should be provided, the Government's financial options in connection with the project and the terms for inviting development proposals.

Mr Tsang said that the Steering Committee decided to adopt the concept plan submitted by Foster and Partners to the West Kowloon Reclamation Concept Plan Competition as the basis for the project masterplan because it has been well received locally and internationally and is technically feasible.

"This does not mean that the final development will look exactly like Foster and Partners' concept, as some planning flexibility is essential, but we will require in the development brief that the key features of the concept plan - such as the distinctive canopy - should be retained," Mr Tsang said.

"We also intend to make use of good ideas in the other four prize winning concept plans, where these can be accommodated without affecting the integrity of the design of the Foster scheme," he added.

Moving on to the decision to conduct a study of financial options, Mr Tsang said that the study would enable the Steering Committee to weigh up the pros and cons of different approaches to packaging the development.

"We expect the private sector will take a keen interest in developing this project, but we also need to consider whether and how the Government may play a role during the implementation stage," he said.

Mr Tsang said that the study would be co-ordinated by the Financial Services and the Treasury Bureau through an independent financial adviser. He expected the study to take a few months, after which the Steering Committee will consider how to proceed.

"At the moment, we are focusing on the planning and financial issues that we need to address first," he said.

"For example, as the design objective is to produce an integrated arts, cultural and entertainment district, we need to decide what the major arts and cultural facilities should be, so the Secretary for Home Affairs is currently giving a great deal of thought to this, in consultation with the arts and cultural communities," Mr Tsang said.

The Government is giving a very high priority to this project. This is underlined by the fact the Chief Secretary for Administration is chairing the Steering Group. The timetable for implementation will depend on how the project is packaged and how the construction programme is phased. The Government is aiming towards having the new district substantially completed by the end of 2009, while individual facilities in it may come on stream before then.

The then Planning and Lands Bureau launched the West Kowloon Reclamation Concept Plan Competition on April 6, 2001 to invite conceptual proposals for the development of the 40-hectare waterfront site at the southern tip of the West Kowloon Reclamation into an integrated arts, cultural and entertainment district. The results were announced on February 28, 2002. Full details, including the report of the Jury, may be found on the Bureau's website at

End/Wednesday, October 2, 2002