19 October 2018
Concern groups launch a protest demanding that the government scrap plans to turn a water front site near Kennedy Town into a community garden. Photo: HKEJ
Concern groups launch a protest demanding that the government scrap plans to turn a water front site near Kennedy Town into a community garden. Photo: HKEJ

Groups oppose plan to turn waterfront site into community garden

The government is facing severe criticism for trying to build a community garden on an idle waterfront site near Kennedy Town without going through a public consultation process.

Questioning the proposal to convert the Sai Wan site, which is a popular location for photography enthusiasts to capture “mirror of the sky” photos, several concern groups have demanded that the plan be dropped.

Members of Central and Western Concern Group, Concern Group for Protecting Kennedy Town, and Sai Wan Concern described the government plan as a “black-box operation” and accused authorities of trying to take a popular public space away from people, Apple Daily reports.

The site is being used for various activities, and converting it into a garden would deprive the citizens that opportunity, the groups argued.

The plan was first proposed at the end of last year by Kathy Siu Ka-yi from the pro-Beijing Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong (DAB), who was then a member of the Central and Western District Council. She has since become the political assistant to the Chief Secretary.

While the district council has passed the proposal, a member, Cheng Lai-king from the Democratic Party, claimed that the pan-democratic members wanted to block it but failed due to insufficient votes.

In her policy address last month, Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor said running a community garden and related uses through a short-term tenancy can encourage the community to make better use of the harbourfront so that it will become more vibrant, and to ensure that more quality public space will be available for public enjoyment.

Such initiatives will be good for beautification of the harbourfront, she said.

But what made the concern groups unhappy was that the council passed the proposal without seeking public opinions beforehand.

Citing the results of a joint survey conducted by them during the past two weeks, they said as much as 98 percent, out of 265 respondents, had opposed the plan.

Wong Kin-ching, convenor of the Concern Group for Protecting Kennedy Town, said many residents in the neighborhood prefer the site the way it is, and are concerned that their activity spaces will be limited.

She also cited a gardening expert as saying that the site is not ideal for growing plants since it is close to the sea with high salt concentration in the air.

The groups have collected more than 1,200 signatures from citizens who object to the plan to build a community garden, Wong said, adding that they have sent a letter to seek a meeting with Lam and Secretary for Development Michael Wong Wai-lun.

Meanwhile, council member Chan Hok-fung from DAB stressed that he is still striving to realize his 2014 proposal to build a pet park at the site, dismissing criticism that he is not a man of his word.

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