Point of law settled for Central reclamation


The issue under contention is about a rule of law which has little to do with the reclamation works and has already been conclusively settled by now in the light of two decisions by the High Court in favour of the Government in relation to the reclamation works in Central, the Secretary for Housing, Planning and Lands, Mr Michael Suen said tonight (March 26).


Addressing the 10th Annual Dinner of the Geotechnical Division of Institution of Engineers, Mr Suen made the above remarks in response to the decision by The Society for the Protection of the Harbour to appeal against an important point of law regarding the Central Reclamation Phase III (CRIII) project and the call for suspension of all CRIII works pending a judgment.


Mr Suen noted that "In his judgment, Mr Justice Hartmann has emphasized that in the case of the Central reclamation time has passed and it has long been recognized that in planning matters time is invariably of importance and indeed good administration, far from surrendering to delay, should seek to avoid it."


" Mr Justice Hartmann went on to say that the executive cannot always bow to the pressure of threatened litigation and it is always a question of policy whether an approved plan should be fulfilled without delay or whether delay is prudent."


"On top of this, there are also other considerations such as the urgency of the works involved, the public interest and third party rights to take into account. Against this background, the Government considers, as a matter of good administration, the reclamation works should proceed without further delay," Mr Suen said.


Noting that the reclamations would provide essential transport infrastructure to relieve traffic congestion on the northern shore of Hong Kong Island, particularly in Central and Wan Chai, Mr Suen said the benefits of the Bypass go beyond just another road to meet the future traffic growth.


"It completes what we regard as 'a missing link' in Hong Kong's strategic transport network and diverts through traffic from the congested Connaught Road Central/Harcourt Road/Gloucester Road Corridor thereby releasing space for improved district traffic and pedestrian accessibility. Built largely underground from land formed, it provides an excellent opportunity for a traffic free waterfront with supporting facilities for public enjoyment," Mr Suen said.


Noting that the coming challenge lies with the planning and development of the waterfont, Mr Suen said the public has expressed in clear and loud terms their aspirations for the Harbour and seeks active participation in the process of turning their aspirations into reality.


"To this end, the Government has announced the setting up of an Advisory Committee on Enhancement of the Harbour-front intended to have a broad-based representation."


"Its mandate is, among other things, to advise on the planning, land use, design and development issues relating to the existing and new harbour-front. We will shortly announce its membership and expect the first meeting to be held before May," Mr Suen said.


Delivering a speech on the topic of "Sustainability Development in Hong Kong", Mr Suen also talked about the efforts of the Hong Kong Housing Authority in promoting sustainable development in public housing.


"Green construction has been put into practice. Instead of maximizing plot ratio, we are beginning to promote healthy living in our public housing estates, with a view to optimizing development density and giving better disposition of building blocks for better environmental benefits," Mr Suen said.


Other efforts include incorporating the slopes at public housing estates into the overall estate design and turn them into communal space that can be enjoyed by the residents, and considering rehabilitation instead of redevelopment of old public housing estates.


"The community, the business sector and the Government are stakeholders as much as they are partners in the protection and improvement of our environment. It is incumbent upon all parties to take up this responsibility to collaborate fully, working together with commitment to Hong Kong - a place where we and our children build our sustainable home," Mr Suen concuded.


Ends/Friday, March 26, 2004