Government is disappointed by new legal battle over reclamation


The Government is disappointed by The Society for Protection of the Harbour's (SPH) decision to appeal against the High Court's judgment regarding the Central Reclamation Phase III (CRIII) project, a Government spokesman said today (March 26).

SPH announced today that they would file a Notice of Appeal with the Court of Appeal against the judgment handed down by the Hon Mr Justice Hartman on March 9, 2004 dismissing the SPH's application for judicial review against the Administration's decisions in relation to the approved Central District (Extension) Outline Zoning Plan.

In announcing its decision to appeal, SPH had issued a press release making references to the CRIII project. This contained information which we are obliged to clarify and respond. A point-by-point response is set out at the Annex.

The SPH originally intended to "leapfrog" the appeal to the Court of Final Appeal (CFA) but the Government having sought the advice of Senior Counsel decided not to consent to the "leapfrog" procedure.

In response to SPH's allegation that the Government is deliberately trying to withhold the granting of consent for them to 'leapfrog', the spokesman explained," An application for direct appeal to the Court of Final Appeal (CFA) must satisfy the stringent criteria under section 27C of the Hong Kong Court of Final Appeal Ordinance. We have sought the Department of Justice and Senior Counsel's advice, which considers that the application by SPH does not meet the criteria for a direct appeal to the CFA.

"It should be noted that the application is also subject to the approval by the Court of First Instance and the Appeal Committee of the CFA. It is incumbent upon a responsible Government to give careful consideration to the application. Under these circumstances, we are unable to consent to the 'leapfrog' application," he said.

Referring to the Government's decision on March 9 to fully resume the CRIII works, the spokesman said the works department was liaising closely with the contractor on details of the works programme. Part of the previously suspended marine works has already been resumed since March 9. It is expected that works will fully resume by early to mid-April 2004.

"The CRIII is covered by an approved OZP and is a properly authorized and funded public works project. In addition, there have been by now two court cases ruled in favour of the Government in relation to the CRIII works. Taking into account the decisions of the Court, the urgency of the works involved, the public interest, and third party rights, the Government can see no valid reason to cause delay to the project," the spokesman said, adding that the Administration had received feedback over the past few months in support of the early completion of the essential roads to resolve the predictable traffic congestion problem in the Central and Wan Chai areas.

"We share the community's aspirations and are firmly committed to the protection and preservation of the Harbour. We have repeated time and again that other than the remaining phases of the Central and Wan Chai reclamation and Southeast Kowloon proposal, there will be no more reclamation within the Harbour."

"The public have expressed their aspirations for the Harbour and seek active participation in the process of turning their aspirations into reality. We will shortly set up the Harbour-front Enhancement Committee which we announced on 9 March to take forward our work of developing an accessible and vibrant waterfront for the enjoyment of the community," the spokesman said.

Since its announcement, the Government has received very enthusiastic feedback from stakeholders. Ongoing discussions with these groups including the SPH are taking place to ensure the Committee will have a broad-based representation.

Ends/Friday, March 26, 2004