Secretary for Development speaks on report by Task Group on Urban Design Study for the New Central Harbourfront

Following are the major speaking points of the Secretary for Development, Mrs Carrie Lam, at the Harbour-front Enhancement Committee (HEC) meeting today (August 17):

I am pleased that the Task Group on Urban Design Study (UDS) for the New Central Harbourfront is submitting its final report to the HEC today.  Although the Stage 2 Public Engagement work on the UDS, launched in April last year has taken much longer than we anticipated, partly to accommodate the thorough work undertaken by the Task Group, the extra time was well spent as I believe we have reached much common ground in the design and development of this important piece of harbourfront for the enjoyment of the people of Hong Kong.

While the revised design for the New Central Harbourfront we launched last year under Stage 2 Public Engagement already represented a Government determination and positive response to public aspirations in terms of harbour protection and a reduction in development intensity (roughly by 19% from a total GFA of about 320,000m2 to 260,000m2), the Administration has listened to views expressed by the Task Group Members, various harbour, conservation, business and green groups as well the District Councils.  There is also a general appreciation that while the harbourfront area, comprising a 2 km continuous promenade and a 11 ha public open space should be spacious and green, it should contain elements that would add to its vibrancy and vitality, attract people flow and enhance accessibility. Any commercial development should be seen as complementary and not predominating.

Taking account of the advice of the Task Group as set out in its report presented today, I am now in a position to respond that –

(a) we have noted the consensus of the Task Group, shared by a good representation across the community spectrum, that the development intensities of Sites 1 and 2 should be further reduced in order to create a world-class, landmark harbourfront more closely integrated with the public pier area.  We will seriously take on board the views expressed and hope to arrive at an alternative in due course.  In relation to this, I note the helpful suggestion from the Task Group that some of the commercial GFA taken out from Sites 1 and 2 could be provided at the G/IC space at Site 5.  We will give thoughts to this possibility;

(b) we shall as advocated by the Task Group remove the original PTI at Site 2, replaced by some bus lay-bys in the area, so that the at-grade space could be planned and designed with much greater flexibility;

(c) we shall carefully consider the Task Group’s suggestion that the future disposal of the CDA in Site 3 (the “groundscraper” site now comprising smaller blocks with connecting landscaped deck) should take the form of smaller lots in order to produce greater design diversity;

(d) we shall re-assemble the Star Ferry Clock Tower at its original location, coupled with a gallery including an exhibition area to display various salvaged items from the old Clock Tower and an information centre as part of the CDA in Site 3;

(e) we shall provide a cycle track along the waterfront and take on board other Task Group suggestions such as opening up the PLA berth for public use as part of the waterfront promenade (when it is not in use by PLA), creating more intimate open space courtyard spaces at the harbourfront, and providing an integrated pedestrian walkway system to improve connectivity between the waterfront and the hinterland.

This then leaves us the question of where Queen’s Pier (QP) should be re-assembled in the New Central Harburfront.  I believe this is perhaps the only issue that members within the Task Group could not reach a consensus.  In the wider community, views were also divided although the majority view within the Task Group and the majority view in society at large do not seem to tally.

I am aware that majority of the non-official members of the Task Group wanted to re-assemble QP at its original location with a large lagoon in front of it.  Some also suggested an “inner harbour”.    The Study Team has carefully considered the implication of these suggestions on Road P2, the technical and engineering aspects, urban design concerns as well as cost and works.  These are set out in the Task Group Report and I shall not repeat them here.

But the crux of the matter is where should QP be re-assembled.  Other Task Group members including all the official members preferred to re-assemble QP by the harbour, reviving its pier function.  During the public engagement, 16 out of 18 District Councils have indicated support to re-assemble QP at the harbourfront.  In particular, the Central and Western DC where the Central Harbourfront is, passed the following motion on May 15, 2008: “This Council supports that the Queen’s Pier should be reassembled along the harbour front of Central to resume its pier function for public use”.

The specific responses collated independently by Public Policy Research Institute (PPRI) of the Hong Kong Polytechnic University  during the public engagement exercise also pointed to majority support for re-assembling QP by the harbour, with details as follows –

Comment cards
Prefer by the Harbour: 49%
Prefer Original Location: 27%

Face-to-face interviews
Prefer by the Harbour: 58%
Prefer Original: 26%

Telephone polls
Prefer by the Harbour: 27%
Prefer Original Location: 27%

Focus Group Workshop
Prefer by the Harbour: 16%
Prefer Original Location: 39%

Community Engagement Forum
Prefer by the Harbour: 55%
Prefer Original Location: 25%

Furthermore, about 61% of the views expressed in written comments also supported QP by the harbour.

Against the above, the Administration has decided to re-assemble QP by the harbourfront, between Piers 9 and 10, to revive its pier function.  I hope the Task Group members, particularly members who are so passionate about QP’s relocation, would appreciate why this decision is made. We have spent over two years in the UDS on the New Central Harbourfront – the Central Reclamation Phase III is reaching its final stage and Road P2 would be opened for public use early next year – there is an urgency to conclude the Study so that the long-awaited plans for the new Central Harbourfront can proceed to the implementation stage.  

If everything goes smoothly and subject to funding approval from Finance Committee of Legislative Council, the re-assembled QP is expected to be completed in 2013, at its third location witnessing the progressive development of Hong Kong’s Central shoreline.

(Please also refers to the Chinese transcript.)

Ends/Monday, August 17, 2009
Issued at HKT 20:57