The Government welcomes the judgment handed down by the High Court today (March 9) regarding the Central Reclamation Phase III (CRIII) project which removes the doubt over the legitimacy of the works. With all the court cases relating to Victoria Harbour set aside, the Government appeals for joint action to enhance the harbourfront for the enjoyment of the community.
The court refused the judicial review lodged by the Society for Protection of the Harbour in respect of the Central District (Extension) Outline Zoning Plan (OZP) following a hearing before the Hon Mr Justice Hartmann from February 9 to 16.
In his judgment, the Hon Mr Justice Hartmann pointed out that what lay at the heart of the judicial review application was the power and responsibilities of the Chief Executive in Council exercised pursuant to the Town Planning Ordinance.
The court's judgment has reconfirmed that the power to revoke an approved OZP or to seek its amendment rests entirely with the Chief Executive in Council.
The judge ruled that in determining that there was no need to revoke or amend the Central OZP taking all factors into account, the Chief Executive in Council was exercising his discretion under section 12 of the Town Planning Ordinance and was acting lawfully and reasonably.
The Government fully recognised the statutory duty to protect and preserve the harbour placed on all public bodies and officers.
Referring to public statements by the Secretary for Housing, Planning and Lands and his 2004 Policy Agenda commitment, the spokesman reiterated that other than the CRIII and proposed reclamations in Wan Chai North and Southeast Kowloon, there would be no more reclamations within the harbour.
The Wan Chai North and Southeast Kowloon proposals are under review to ensure full compliance with the Protection of the Harbour Ordinance based on the single "overriding public need test" laid down by the Court of Final Appeal.
"Both the Government and the Town Planning Board have attached importance to early consultations with the public, the Legislative Council, District Councils and professional bodies in these reviews. We expect to produce conceptual plans for Wan Chai North and Southeast Kowloon for consultation by end-2004," the spokesman said.
Turning to CRIII, the spokesman said that Government had received feedback from various bodies and groups over the past few months voicing their support for the essential transport infrastructure to resolve the foreseeable traffic congestion problem in the Central and Wan Chai areas. "The court's judgment has enabled us to continue with the CRIII project to meet essential transport needs and to develop the land to form a vibrant and accessible waterfront.
"The CRIII has a contract period of 55 months. Partial suspension of certain marine works in the past few months has caused some delays. We will fully resume the CRIII works to ensure early completion to meet the public needs. We will talk with the consultant and the contractor to see whether there are any mitigation measures or rescheduling of the sequence of works that could recoup some of the delays," the spokesman added.
The Government is fully aware of sentiment against further harbour reclamation to build more roads to meet growing transport needs in the future.
"Pending the completion of the Central - Wan Chai Bypass and the surface roads in Central, we are putting in place various transport management measures to relieve traffic congestion. We will continue with these efforts to meet future transport needs," the spokesman added.
The Government has over the past few months listened to views expressed by the community and has repeatedly assured the public of the Government's commitment to protect the harbour.
"We would like to thank the community for expressing their aspirations for the harbour. We believe that through engaging the public over the past few months, the community has built a strong consensus to protect and preserve the harbour.
As a further step to working with the community to achieve our common vision for the harbour, the Secretary for Housing, Planning and Lands will shortly appoint an Advisory Committee on Enhancement of the Harbourfront to advise the Government on how to enhance the harbourfront for the enjoyment of the public. Specifically, the committee will:
a) provide feedback for the reviews on the remaining proposed reclamation within the harbour, namely the Wan Chai North and Southeast Kowloon reclamation proposals;
b) advise on the planning, land use, design and development issues relating to the existing and new harbourfront;
c) advise on means to enlist greater public involvement in the planning and design of the harbourfront areas; and
d) explore optimal ways to manage the harbourfront areas, including private-sector partnership.
Membership of the committee will be announced separately," the spokesman said.
Ends/March 9, 2004