The Town Planning Board (TPB) has come under fire for approving a controversial project to redevelop the Tsim Sha Tsui promenade, with some critics dubbing the move as another example of government-business nexus in the city.
The project, which was jointly put forward by New World Development (NWD, 00017.HK) and the Leisure and Cultural Services Department (LCSD), involves nearly four hectares of popular waterfront area.
Under the plan, the promenade would be closed off for three years for renovation, which will see the addition of new facilities, including restaurants, retail shops, observation decks, performance venues and other rest and recreation options.
The TPB’s Metro Planning Committee gave the green light to the redevelopment plan despite widespread public opposition.
In a consultation exercise last month, about 97 percent of the written submissions received were said to have been against the project.
Following the approval late last week, two committee members — Clarence Leung and Wilton Fok — have raised concerns about allegations of the government colluding with NWD, which currently manages the Avenue of Stars attraction on the promenade.
The members questioned why the plan would be carried out by NWD, and why authorities did not opt for an open tender route, Apple Daily reported.
Committee chairman Ling Kar-kan said the government-business partnership has been a set policy. How the land should be used is not something the committee is mandated to look at, he said.
Civic Party lawmaker Claudia Mo said the government’s decision to give the project to NWD raises suspicions of collusion.
Roy Tam, president of environmental group Green Sense, said a wave of judicial reviews can be expected in the wake of the opposition to the redevelopment plan.
The LCSD could also come under the scanner of the Office of The Ombudsman, he said.
A TPB spokesman said its approval for the enhancement plan for the Tsim Sha Tsui harbourfront was based on the expectation that new facilities could bring in more visitors.
Applicants will have to meet several requirements set by TPB, including submitting assessment reports of crowd and traffic control, the spokesman said.
Asserting that NWD will gain no financial benefit, LCSD’s assistant director Louis Ng said the government has the ultimate management rights of the harbourfront area
Secretary for Home Affairs Lau Kong-wah said the enhancement plan of Tsim Sha Tsui is very good as it meets demands of the society and local residents.
He said it is reasonable that the NWD will lead the plan as the firm has been managing the Avenue of Stars.
In other comments, he said a government committee will be set up to monitor the work.
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