The HKIUD Public Affairs Committee’s Comments on the “Boardwalk underneath Island Eastern Corridor – Investigation Stage 2 Community Engagement”
26 January 2017

The HKIUD Public Affairs Committee’s Comments on

the “Boardwalk underneath Island Eastern Corridor – Investigation Stage 2 Community Engagement” 

1.      We have strong reservation about the way that this issue is being handled. Our comments are as follows.

2.    The proposed boardwalk wa designed and developed over two years as part of the hong Kong Island East harbourfront Feasibility, completed in March 2012. It was supported at all the public consultations held as part of this study. It is noticed that the Harbourfront Commission subsequently requested CEDD to examine the engineering viability of his proposal, and they reported back that it was viable, alhough dolphin structures might well be required. At that time the main part of the proposed walkway was located underneath the shadow of the existing Island Eastern Corridor. Every effort was taken to avoid or to minimize encroachment onto open water surface. The main potential difficulty, apparently was how the provisions of the Protection of the Harbour Ordinance (PHO) would be met, which could only be rebutted by establishing anoverriding public need for reclamation ("the overriding public need test") based on cogent and convincing materials.

3.      The study presumably continued in-house after that. However, after some 12 months of study, a "Refined Proposal" emerged, with a 10 m wide boardwalk, involving 510 sq m of reclamation and 17,500 sq m of decked area above the sea, with a total affecte water area of 40,500 sq m. The entire design and location had changed. This is much more than a "refinement" of the previous accepted in principl proposal.

4.      We are now led to believe that the quite extensive structure, as proposed, is the result of public requests through a new consultation process, and we are left to assume, that all demands have been accommodated which thereby requires a completely different type of structure. This leaves the following several issues open.

5.      If we look back at the original planning intention, it should be clear that the central issue of the project is quite simple - the job is to provided a necessary connective element to ensure, as far as possible, a continuous pedestrian promenade along the harbourfront.

6.      Elevated roads in strategic locations offer a real opportunityfor efficient and sustainable use of the space beneath, and need to be better exploited in a dense city with a high demand for space. On the Kwun Tong waterfront we have the example of an elevated highway which provides one kilometer of available ground level land that can be used for a variety of waterfront related purposes. In Island East we have a similar gifted opportunity to us space over water pro-actively and extremely cost effectively and sustainably, incorporating a very necessary use and a high degree of public gain. We could as well show to othercities how Hong Kong could again capably turn constraints into oppportunities in a compact environment.

7.      The question why were the public not requested to make /support a simple decision directed at the overriding public need" aspect with regard to the origial proposal ? That is to say they could simply have been asked to either support the overriding need for such a facility, intended to provide a coherent link with the longer eastern harbourfront promendade, or support the provisions of the PHO that there should be no further harbour reclamation of any type, instead of asking them for a "shopping list" despite both cost and constraints.

8.        It would also be useful to recall atthis juncture that thethree tests laid down by the High Court in July 1003- regarding the presumptions outlined in Section 3.1of the PHO were: Compelling, overriding and present need; No viable alternative; Minimum impairment. The current scheme as proposed is flaunting the sentiments set out in the PHO rather than sensible focusing on proportionality, and more particularly so when there is a viable, far less intrusive and much cost-effective option that has already gone through public consultation. The constraint that we were given to understand in the original version was the :headroom" in one small area might be slightly reduced, but we cannot see how an alternative solutionshould lead to this major deviation, instead of diversion of the alignment inland, or other design solutions. On the other hand, could the current proposal likely meet the three tests ?

9.       From an urban design point of view, the engineering model now put forward has a high impact, and is located entirely outside the alignment of the Island Eastern Corridor (IEC), leaving the area under the IEC entirely vacant. The massive  opportunity that exists for sustainable integration of the boardwalk in a completely effective is ignored having been shown to be viable. The aspects of climate protection from rain or sunlight that this provides has likewise been ignored, as has the opportunity to revitalise a "left-over" area under the IEC.

10.     In respect of the width of 10 metres in the design, there is a need to look critically at the isue of accommodating a wide purpose designed cycletrack, and particularly so given the constraints. Cycling as pointed out in previous correspondence should be closely evaluated in the urban are., and only encouraged in situations that create opportunities both for recreation and as a form of transport. As it is, the difficulties in introducing a safe system are great. While the idea of achieving this in any way as a transport corridor between home or workplace, school or station. We also have on our doorstep a 50km cycletrack, purpose-built, largely around the coastof the NT that is currently being extended in two further phases to 100 km. This is also purposely integrated within the planning framework of several of the new towns so that, unlike high density developments in the urban area, children can cycle to school or stations without the need to cross major highways, or travel along massively trafficked public roads. In addition the cyceltrack is very popular for recreation with bicycle hire provided informally by private operators. The NT system is in most parts engineered with a physical  separation between cyclists and pedestrians. In the situation along the Eastern Island waterfront we are dealing not with a fully integral  solution but an "add on" to an existing waterfront in a situation that is fraught with legalities, and where young cyclists even living in nearby estates would have to cross majorroads to even get to the waterfront, and would unlikely be able to use this as a means of transport to school, public transport or anything else, as none of these are provided near to the harbourfront. The main prerogative on the EasternIsland waterfront must be to provide a safe and comfortable waterfront pedestrian environment, with perhaps informal cycling use as occurs on the Aldrich Bay waterfront.

11.     It could be understood that Government is trying to address the requests from everyone, and the provision of a wide boardwalk incorporating cyceltrack is to meet the requests of cyclists,but Government should perhaps re-consider the prospect of passing the three testsunder the PHO. Meeting public aspirations (or the aspirations of some quarters of the community) may not necessarily equal to meeting an "overriding public need". While this might have to be decided by Judicial Review when all factors and alternatives must be taken into consideration, protracted litigation processes may onlypostpone any harbourfront enhancement initiatives however well intentioned they may be.

Public Affairs Committee of

The Hong Kong Institute of Urban Design

January 2017