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Letter dated 23 May 2004 sent to the South China Morning Post

23 March 2004

The Editor
South China Morning Post

Dear Sir,

I would like to set the record straight with regard to your article headlined "Reclamation model is fantasy land, says Christine Loh" yesterday (March 22).

Your graphic accompanied the article "Reclamation model is fantasy land, says Christine Loh" is unfair and untrue. In fact, it has totally distorted the image of future developments in the harbourfront after the completion of the Central Reclamation Phase III (CRIII) works. The sensational presentation of a dozen new tall buildings clustering along the waterfront, together with another skyscraper sprouting from where the City Hall sits is misleading. It flies in the face of our plan to create a world-class harbourfront through careful height restrictions on the few new buildings allowed to be developed.

Firstly, the new developments shown on your graphic include two sites zoned "Comprehensive Development Area" (CDA) and "Other Specified Uses" (OU) annotated "Waterfront Related Commercial and Leisure Uses" on the approved Central District (Extension) Outline Zoning Plan (OZP). Both sites are subject to stringent planning control.

The "CDA" will be a podium structure with low-rise pedestrian landscape deck on the east and the "groundscraper" commercial developments on the west. The maximum building height for the landscape deck with commercial facilities below is 16mPD (about 2 storeys above road level) and that for the "groundscraper" is 50mPD (about 10 storeys but should gradually decrease towards the waterfront). The maximum commercial/retail gross floor area of the "CDA" is estimated to be about 190,000 square metres, not the 6 million square metres as stated in your article. Any future development of the site will require the approval of the Town Planning Board to ensure that it would comply with the planning intention.

For the "OU" sites along the promenade, a height restriction of 25mPD (about 4 storeys) is imposed to ensure that it will be a low-rise structure compatible with the waterfront setting. These sites are intended for restaurants, cafeteria and shops which are essential for the vibrancy of the waterfront.

Secondly, the Central District (Extension) OZP is an approved plan. Should there be any proposed amendment to the land use zoning in future, it would need to go through a statutory planning process and the public could submit objections under the provisions of the Town Planning Ordinance. As such, it is incorrect to state that the entire area will be turned into "a commercial area that could house up to 10 buildings the size of HSBC tower".

Thirdly, the graphic includes a very tall building at the existing City Hall site. Again, this is entirely wrong as there is no intention to redevelop the City Hall complex and there is also a height restriction of 50mPD for this "Government, Institution and Community" ("G/IC") site under the OZP, which would not exceed the height of the existing City Hall High Block.

Fourthly, the wide vehicular access to the People Liberation Army berth as shown in your graphic also deviates from what we are actually planning. While a vehicular access is required between the PLA berth and the PLA Garrison Headquarters, a pavement scheme would be developed within the promenade, delineating the access road while providing uninterrupted movement for pedestrians when the berth area is not closed for military use. This explains the berth being part of the promenade is not separately identified in our picture. The berth is subject to detailed design in the future. This supporting area by the size of 20 metres x 150 metres will have three isolated 1-story platforms.

Lastly, regarding the two six-lane highways in Central, this is a misleading way of presenting the essential transport infrastructure to be provided within CRIII. Actually in a written reply to your reporter, Ms Sara Bradford last Saturday, we already clarified that the P2 road within the CRIII area was a dual-two carriageway with additional lanes for turning purposes at junctions. It is not a six-lane highway as one would normally interpret the term.

It is most unfortunate that your reporter had misled readers by presenting the model in her own imagination. We believe the above information would help clarify the matter and hope future reports on CRIII would be accurate and unbiased. We are pleased to provide further information if you have further doubts on the project.

Yours sincerely,

(Miss Christine Chow)
Principal Assistant Secretary for Housing, Planning and Lands (Planning and Lands)