Secretary for Development speaks about measures to reduce development density and Central-Wan Chai Bypass

Following is the transcript (English portion) of the Secretary for Development, Mrs Carrie Lam, speaking to the media after attending the opening ceremony of MIPIM Asia 2008 at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre today (November 19):

Reporter:  The environmental groups are still not happy with the measures to reduce development density.  What is your response?  Also, why the government is confident that the Central-Wan Chai Bypass can meet the overriding public need test?

Secretary for Development:  First of all, on the West Rail property development projects, it would not be possible for any government to satisfy everybody when it comes to major development projects like this.  But over the years we have done a lot of works together with the Mass Transit Railway Corporation.  We have heard complaints from the District Councils and the public.  Basically, it is about wall-effect where you have no breezeway, no visual corridor and also about the height.  So we have now put up a scheme which we feel that has addressed the public’s concern.  But I must also emphasise the other side of the story, i.e. this is a very important supply of housing because they are above rail property projects which make it very convenient for people to live and go to work.  They are also pitched at the mass housing.  We don’t just want to build luxury housing, we need really adequate and reliable supply of mass housing.  So I appeal to the environmental groups that this is a right way forward and we should move ahead.

On your second question about the Central-Wan Chai Bypass, as you know the court has ruled that temporary reclamation is also reclamation.  So we have to satisfy the overriding public need test on the extent of temporary reclamation needed.  Having done years of work by the Highways Department and my civil engineering department, we believe that this is the option which will meet the overriding need test because even if the flyover option requires a little bit less reclamation, everybody is up against the flyover on that part of the harbourfront.  So on balance, we have done this cogent and convincing argument which we feel would meet the overriding need test.  We have already taken this alternative proposal to the District Council and also more importantly to the Harbourfront Enhancement Committee and has gained the support of groups which are always harbour advocacy.  So again this is a project that I think we have enough discussion and enough argument and this is a time to move forward.

I am pretty confident that as far as the bypass is concerned, we have gone through all these discussions and debates because even in the last legal challenge, it was not about the bypass itself.  It is about the two pieces of temporary reclamation which are required during the work period.  So of the two pieces of temporary reclamation, the then major focus is on the temporary breakwater.  Now we had dropped the breakwater.  So I hope we have resolved the major hurdle.  This is a very important piece of infrastructure.

(Please also refers to the Chinese portion of the transcript.)

Ends/Wednesday, November 19, 2008
Issued at HKT 15:22