The Government will continue its efforts to enhance the accessibility of the harbour-front with a view to creating a vibrant and attractive waterfront, a spokesman for the Government said today (July 5).
Commenting on a summary report published by Designing Hong Kong Harbour District (DHKHD) today, the spokesman said the Government and the community had a common goal, to protect and preserve the harbour as a special public asset and as a part of Hong Kong's natural heritage.
While welcoming DHKHD's initiative to call upon the society to give thought to the planning and development of the harbour-front, the spokesman said the Government held different views on some issues mentioned in the report.
On a proposal to appoint a "Chief Planner" on the same level as the Chief Secretary and Financial Secretary co-ordinating all planning policy, the spokesman said the Government saw no need to make such an appointment with the Director of Planning advising the Government on all planning-related issues, including the planning and design of the harbour-front. The Town Planning Board, at the same time, renders independent advice to the Government on planning issues.
In addition, the Harbour-front Enhancement Committee (HEC) had been established to advise the Government on the planning and design of harbour-front specific issues, the spokesman noted.
"Turning to the setting up of a statutory 'Harbour Authority' as suggested in the report, we note that some overseas cities have their harbour or port authorities, such as Sydney, Vancouver and Toronto. These authorities are vested with the powers to purchase, sell, develop and manage land and to market harbour-related activities.
"However, it is not appropriate to copy the mode of operations of other cities. We have to consider our own circumstances, in particular our existing legal, fiscal, land development and planning systems.
"The Government has no intention or plans to set up a separate authority to be in charge of policies and land use management for the foreshore areas."
As waterfronts of the harbour were integrated in various statutory outline zoning plans for comprehensive planning and land use design, the spokesman pointed out that the Government did not consider it appropriate to draw up an administrative boundary for a "harbour district" per se, explaining that any such attempt would be arbitrary in nature.
"In considering the planning and design of the harbour-front, we will adopt a holistic approach and will include the adjacent areas in the planning process."
As to the building of roads, the spokesman noted that the Government had considered all alternative traffic management measures before embarking on new road projects.
The Government's transport policy paper entitled "Hong Kong Moving Ahead - A Transport Strategy for the Future" published in 1999 clearly sets out five policy objectives:
* Better integration of transport and land-use planning;
* Better use of railways as the backbone of our passenger transport system;
* Better public transport services and facilities;
* Better use of advanced technologies in transport management; and
* Better environmental protection.
The spokesman said the Government's overall objective was to provide a safe, efficient and reliable transport system to meet the economic, social and recreational needs of Hong Kong in an environmentally acceptable manner through this multi-faceted approach comprising the five initiatives.
"It is clear that providing additional capacities by way of widening existing roads or constructing new highways is only one of the multi-pronged solutions advocated in our Transport Strategy.
"The Planning Department has always been in close liaison with other Government departments including the Transport Department in planning the land use of the harbour-front, and all social, economic, environmental and relevant factors are fully considered and balanced in the planning process. The principle of sustainable development is one of the key elements in land use planning, and we carry out sustainable development assessments for all new development proposals," the spokesman said.
"We recognise that over the years, the harbour-front has served a functional purpose. We note the increasing public aspirations for a harbour-front for public enjoyment and will give full weight to such considerations in the future planning of harbour-front uses.
"For example, in line with our policy objective and public aspirations of placing greater emphasis on pedestrian facilities, one of the primary objectives in the planning of Central Reclamation Phase III (CRIII) and Wan Chai Development Phase II is providing convenient access for pedestrians. DHKHD also recognised that there will be open space corridors in CRIII to bring pedestrians to the future waterfront.
"As for existing functional uses along the harbour-front, replacement sites will be identified taking into account the availability of land and the impact on the trades and the neighbourhoods," the spokesman said.
"We will work with the HEC and the community with a view to striking a balance to meet the various needs of the community in the planning process," he said.
Ends/Monday, July 5, 2004