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Monday, May 20, 2024

‘5 years is too long’: Hong Kong families decry temporary closure of promenade

‘5 years is too long’: Hong Kong families decry temporary closure of promenade

Kennedy Town’s Belcher Bay Promenade will temporarily close as part of reclamation work to build tunnel to artificial islands project, and not all residents are happy with alternative park government is suggesting.

A reclamation plan that calls for closing a popular promenade on the northwestern side of Hong Kong Island for five years has left families concerned about their access to the waterfront and what type of activities will be permitted at an alternative park the government will establish.

Residents of Kennedy Town say they were caught off-guard by this week’s announcement the promenade would be closed for five years as waters off the park would undergo temporary reclamation.

The work is part of the proposed construction of a tunnel running to three artificial islands the government intends to build under its “Lantau Tomorrow Vision” to house half a million people and create the city’s third central business district.

The park stretches for 172 metres along the Victoria Harbour shoreline.

Katie Cheung on Saturday said she took her two-year-old daughter to the Belcher Bay Promenade every day so the girl could ride her scooter, blow bubbles and enjoy the playground.

“Facilities in the park change every three to four months in accordance with different themes, such as the Mid-Autumn Festival and Christmas. We really appreciate that the government has put effort into the park’s operation,” the 31-year-old clerk said.

“The living space in Hong Kong is small and we all look for spacious recreational areas.”

Temporary reclamation in Kennedy Town

In the afternoon, the park that stretches for 172 metres (564 feet) along the Victoria Harbour shoreline was filled with children playing and pet owners walking their dogs. Couples and groups of friends posed for selfies against the backdrop of waves glistening in the sun under a blue sky.

In a meeting on Thursday, the government’s advisory Harbourfront Commission, was told the tunnel would link to the Connaught Road West Flyover, although the scale and the exact time of the reclamation project was not disclosed.

To compensate for the loss of the promenade, the government intended to set up a park at an unused site that was previously home to an incinerator. The new facility is about six minutes away from the Kennedy Town MTR station and 10 minutes away from the current park.

Cheung said she was disappointed over the temporary closure of the Belcher Bay Promenade.

“Five years is too long, and I hope the new park will be as fun as the current one,” she said, urging the government to give more details of the new recreational area.

Under the Protection of the Harbour Ordinance, any form of reclamation in Victoria Harbour is forbidden unless it fulfils the “public need test”.

Ken Sing, a 40-year-old accountant, said taking his three-year-old son from their home to the new park would take 10 minutes longer than their journey to the promenade.

A 30-year-old woman walking a dog, who only gave her surname Lai, said authorities should clarify whether the new location would be animal-friendly.

“I will be troubled if there isn’t a dog park in the neighbourhood,” she said. “I can walk my dog to the park in Sheung Wan but the space is quite narrow there. My dog has less play space while other residents may feel affected.”

Aaron Bok Kwok-ming, president of the Hong Kong Institution of Engineers, said temporary reclamation usually lasted five to six years, subject to the road alignment involved.

Bok added the Protection of the Harbour Ordinance posed restrictions on the construction as well, as the law forbade any reclamation in Victoria Harbour unless it was proved to have “overriding public need” with “cogent and convincing materials”.

“It is not easy as the government can only reclaim the least amount of area within the shortest time to comply with the requirement,” he said. “Or else it will be challenged by law.”

The government planner responsible for the road project earlier said it was preparing relevant information to fulfil the “public need test” and consult the Harbourfront Commission in the next stage.


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