An alliance of groups and individuals attending the Legislative Council Subcommittee meeting today to discuss the Central waterfront (including the Tamar site) tells legislators:
(1) Tamar should not proceed before the Government has carried out a review of the Central Outline Zoning Plan because the priorities of the existing plan, produced in the 1980s-1990s, is now outdated; and
(2) Issues relating to planning, land use, development density, traffic and air quality can only be address by a total review rather than ad hoc methods that are designed to respond to various public criticisms.
Paul Zimmerman, Convenor of Designing Hong Kong Harbour District, wants the government to engage on the many problems related to the Central/Tamar development plans: “It is unfortunate the Chief Executive has politicized the debate over the urban plans for Tamar and Central. Rather than discussing the merits and concerns so that the plans can be improved, Donald Tsang is pushing businesses, professionals, trade unions and political parties to give him carte blanche support for Tamar”.
Bill Barron, Institute for the Environment of the Hong Kong University of Science & Technology called for plans to be reviewed because the many problems are a result of poor planning: “Measurements show 1/3 of the area bordered by IFC II, HKECC, Connaught/Harcourt/Gloucester Roads, and new Shoreline will be given over to highways and roads. What we get in return are air pollution and noise.”
Air pollution in Central is already bad and it will get worse once the new government offices are built at the Tamar site and the surrounding district developed because the “deep canyons” created by these buildings will trap air pollution.
Air quality modelling expert Dr. Jimmy Fung of HKUST says the Government’s predictions for the pollution in Tamar are far too low as the pollution model the Government used “pretends Central is a flat surface” with no buildings. Fung said, “A responsible government never keeps using information that is proven to be false. Another EIA report that takes into account tall buildings should be produced by the Government.”
Furthermore, Fung, in consultation with public health experts, believe additional public health costs arising from higher air pollution impacting people in the Central/Tamar area could be as high as HK$220 million per annum.
Echoing Dr. Fung, Annelise Connell, Chairman of Clear the Air said, “Those of us on the MTR do not want even more toxic gases from 20 lanes of traffic driven into the MTR ‘fresh air’ vents.” The buildings on the Tamar site are likely to block the wind from Tamar that originally helps reduce air pollution in Queensway. “Even a third form student can see from the animations that stealing the wind so it cannot blow away the pollution is bad for our health. Only a cruel man would steal the wind and choke the people to build an icon,” Connell added.
Christine Loh, Chairman of Society for Protection of the Harbour said, “Legislators should actively support the call for a review of the COZP so that the planning for the historic heart of the city can achieve the Government’s own declared sustainable development, Harbour Vision and Harbour Principles objectives.”
Hardy Lok, Director of SPH added, “We call upon legislators to assess the Government’s proposal for Tamar not as a stand alone project but as part of the COZP so that land use, development density, traffic and air quality can be integrated to produce a much better plan that Hong Kong can be proud of for generations to come.”
The alliance of groups includes the following organisations and individuals: Civic Exchange, Clear The Air (CTA), Designing Hong Kong Harbour District (DHKHD), Friends of the Earth (FoE), Friends of the Harbour, Save Our Shorelines (SOS), Society for Protection of the Harbour (SPH), WWF Hong Kong, Dr. Bill Barron, John Batten and Norman de Brackinghe.