The Town Planning Board welcomes the judgment handed down by the Court of Final Appeal (CFA) today (January 9) clarifying the legal principles behind the Protection of the Harbour Ordinance.
A spokesman for the board said that in lodging the appeal in July last year, the board had no intention of saving the Wan Chai North Outline Zoning Plan (OZP).
"It only wished to seek a clarification from the CFA on the interpretation of the ordinance in view of the significant implications of such an interpretation on the planning and development of the harbour-front areas," he said.
"The judgment provides clear guidance for the board in planning for the harbour-front areas in future."
The CFA has clarified that the presumption against reclamation in section 3 of the ordinance can only be rebutted if a single test, that is, "the overriding public need test", can be satisfied. Public needs would include the economic, environmental and social needs of the community.
The CFA elaborated that a need should only be regarded as overriding if it was compelling and present and there was no reasonable alternative. However, it considered that describing a compelling and present need as something the community could not do without - as in the High Court's judgment - would be going too far. Moreover, in considering what was a reasonable alternative, all circumstances including the economic, environmental and social implications of each alternative, and the cost, time and delay involved would be relevant. The extent of reclamation should not go beyond the minimum required by the overriding need.
The CFA also considered that the board had acted in good faith and in a conscientious manner when dealing with the matter.
"The board will study the implications of the judgment in detail and review the draft Wan Chai North Outline Zoning Plan (OZP) according to the interpretation of the ordinance laid down by the CFA," the spokesman said.
"The board has already decided to drop the Harbour Park proposal. It has also asked the Government to carry out a comprehensive planning and engineering review with a view to drawing up a minimum reclamation option for Wan Chai North that would comply with the law as soon as possible. The board will reconsider the draft OZP and the objections after the completion of the review," the spokesman added.
The High Court earlier quashed the board's decision in relation to the draft Wan Chai North OZP and ordered the board to reconsider the plan and the objections to the plan, based on its interpretation that the presumption against reclamation as laid down in section 3 of the ordinance would only be rebutted where there was: (a) a compelling, overriding and present need; (b) no viable alternative; and (c) minimal impairment.
Ends/Friday, January 9, 2004