Translation of a speech by the Secretary for Housing, Planning and Lands, Mr Michael Suen, at the meeting of the Legislative Council Panel on Planning, Lands and Works

Following is the translation of a speech by the Secretary for Housing, Planning and Lands, Mr Michael Suen, at the meeting of the Legislative Council Panel on Planning, Lands and Works today (February 22):

Chairman and Members,

I am glad to have this opportunity today to brief the Panel on the progress of the reviews on Wan Chai North and Kai Tak. As our special public asset and natural heritage, Victoria Harbour should be protected and preserved. It is our pledge that apart from Central and the development schemes at Wan Chai North and Kai Tak, there will be no further reclamation inside the Harbour.

In respect of the remaining reclamation projects on Hong Kong Island, we resumed the works of Central Reclamation Phase III last March to implement minimum reclamation to meet the urgent traffic needs. The nearby Wan Chai Development Phase II ("WDII") project is now undergoing an envisioning stage under the principle of "minimum reclamation". We have also adopted "zero reclamation" as the starting point to re-plan the last proposed reclamation scheme on the Kowloon side, i.e. the site of the former Kai Tak Airport.

In reviewing the two development projects mentioned above, we will strictly adhere to the requirements of the Protection of the Harbour Ordinance ("PHO") and the judgment of the Court of Final Appeal ("CFA"). It is only when we are satisfied that reclamation is necessary and that there are no other reasonable alternatives to the reclamation option that we will allow minimum reclamation to take place to meet the CFA's "overriding public need".

The sole purpose of the WDII project is to build a new Trunk Road to relieve the pressing problem of traffic congestion along the northern shore of Hong Kong Island. I believe that Members must have noticed that the traffic problem is worsening. According to the estimate made by Transport Department ("TD"), if the new Trunk Road is not built by 2011, it will take 45 minutes to travel from Rumsey Street in Central to Causeway Bay during rush hours (which at present takes 15 minutes). TD has examined various traffic management measures to relieve traffic congestion and maximize the capacity of existing roads and junctions along the Connaught Road Central/Harcourt Road/Gloucester Road Corridor, but concluded that apart from these measures, the Trunk Road will still be required. With the Trunk Road in place, the travelling time is expected to shorten from the 15 minutes at present to 5 minutes. As Asia's World City, we must not allow the traffic congestion problem to affect our economic activities and the public's daily life. Therefore, we must build the Trunk Road to meet the urgent need.

Any possible reclamation at Wan Chai North will depend on the alignment, design and location of the Trunk Road and the extent will be kept to the minimum. If reclamation is to be involved in the process of building the Trunk Road, any reclaimed land at Wan Chai North will be put to public use only. I must emphasise that no land will be reclaimed for the purpose of land sale.

To enhance public participation and facilitate consensus-building, we are working closely with the Harbour-front Enhancement Committee ("HEC") in carrying out the comprehensive reviews of Wan Chai North and Kai Tak with a view to ensuring full compliance with the PHO and the CFA judgment. Meanwhile, the relevant Sub-committees of the HEC are conducting public consultation activities in relation to these two development projects. The objective is to engage the public before the preliminary planning concepts are produced so that the public can express at an early stage their vision and aspirations for the sustainable development of the harbour-front with a view to building consensus. Compared to the past practice of consulting the public after the planning concepts were produced, this is a new attempt that involves another round of public consultation. I hope that this new practice facilitates the future planning of the Harbour, better responds to public aspirations, and meets public needs in our attempt to "return the Harbour to the people".

My colleagues and I and the colleagues from the Environment, Transport and Works Bureau are happy to answer Members' enquiries. Thank you.

Ends/Tuesday, February 22, 2005