Residents will lose access to a popular promenade along Victoria Harbour for five years under a proposal by Hong Kong authorities to conduct temporary reclamation works for a road linking the city with three artificial islands off Lantau.
Planning officials revealed the proposal on Thursday at a meeting of the Harbourfront Commission, a panel of advisers comprised of different professions to oversee the development of the city’s waterfront, but stopped short of offering details about the size and exact time needed for the temporary reclamation in Kennedy Town.
“For road construction, we will need to conduct temporary reclamation works at waters off the Belcher Bay Promenade,” chief town planner Ng Kim-wai said.
“We are preparing cogent and convincing materials to state that the work complies with the principle of overriding public need.”
Under the Protection of the Harbour Ordinance, any form of reclamation in Victoria Harbour is forbidden unless it fulfils the “public need test”.
Authorities earlier said they wished to amend the ordinance to exempt small-scale reclamation from the test for improvement works such as for building boardwalks. Officials have said such work is often delayed or scrapped altogether due to difficulties in meeting the building requirements.
The proposed road will link the city to three artificial islands to be built in the waters off Lantau as part of the government’s ambitious project to construct a third business district and provide housing for half a million people.
Under the government’s preliminary plan, the 172-metre (564-foot) long Belcher Bay Promenade in Kennedy Town, often popular at sunset for its panoramic view of the city, will be closed for five years to make way for the temporary reclamation works related to the road construction. It will reopen to the public after the work is complete.
To compensate for the temporary loss of recreational land, the government said it would set up another waterfront park nearby before closing the Belcher Bay Promenade.
The new park would be located 10 minutes away, at the site of the former Kennedy Town incinerator.
Government planners said they would provide more details in future and explore connecting the promenades at Belcher Bay, the former incinerator site and the central-western section of the Hong Kong Island waterfront.
Secretary for Development Bernadette Linn Hon-ho said she hoped residents would understand the benefits of the construction.
“We hope to bring permanent improvements. There will be a wider and longer harbourfront in the future,” Linn said during the meeting.
Commission member Ivan Ho Man-yiu, who is also an architect, urged the government to reveal more details.
“The public will have a huge reaction to closing the promenade. The team has to handle it carefully so that the public can still enjoy their space,” Ho said.
Central and Western district councillor Jordan Pang Ka-ho said he welcomed the setting up of an extra recreational park but he hoped it could be built before authorities closed the promenade.
“If there isn’t a seamless arrangement, I believe residents will be disappointed as they will have to walk another five to 10 minutes to the closest harbourfront park,” Pang said, referring to the promenade near Sai Wan.
He added he was also concerned about whether the new road would block the view from the Belcher Bay Promenade and urged officials to explain the plan further.