The Kowloon Shangri-La and Murdoch Investments Inc. have filed a judicial review in the hopes of overturning the Town Planning Board’s decision to approve the Tsim Sha Tsui Avenue of Stars revitalisation plans. The two companies are also asking the court to suspend further work on the harbourfront until the judicial review action is concluded.

According to the application to the court, the applicants were both business operators near the harbour and though their interests will be affected by the revitalisation plans, they were not invited to the meeting in August when the decision to approve the plans was made.

The Town Planning Board unlawfully delegated the power of approving amendments of the project to other government departments and they were thus unable to supervise the execution properly, the applicants said. As such the public body had acted beyond their scope of power.

New World is spearheading the revitalisation.

The applicants also said that the Town Planning Board had failed to take into account relevant considerations, such as the fact that the Avenue of Stars was public space, and that the traffic and view would be affected by the plans. They further argued the Town Planning Board had mistakenly assumed that the Harbourfront Commission had already been consulted and supported the application, which was procedural impropriety and went against the principle of legitimate expectation.

The Town Planning Board has been listed as a respondent in the action, while the Director of Leisure and Cultural Services Department and a subsidiary of New World Development are interested parties to the case.

The Avenue of Stars before it was closed off to the public for the renovation. Photo: Wikicommons.

Gov’t-business collusion? 
The Tsim Sha Tsui Avenue of Stars revitalisation project, which was spearheaded by New World Development and the Leisure and Cultural Services Department (LCSD) and approved by the Town Planning Board in August, was widely criticised for its lack of proper consultation – both by the public and the Harbourfront Commission. Many were also worried that the project was one of government-business collusion. Apple Daily reports that out of some 300 submissions made to the Town Planning Board, over 90 percent opposed to the plans.

Following a judicial review filed by members of the public who were against the proposal, a public consultation was relaunched in September. However, the consultation process was slammed by The Victoria Waterfront Concern Group as “phony,” as “it was jointly hosted by the government and New World Development, and they refused to discuss issues such as the management model and whether there will be an open tender process.”

Despite this, in October, the Avenue of Stars was closed off to the public for the renovation which is to last three years.

The proposal includes a 38,000-square-metre area covering Salisbury Garden, the Avenue of Stars and the Tsim Sha Tsui Promenade. New World Development said it aims to “revitalise” and “re-energise” the waterfront by building new facilities, which is to include a wooden observation deck no more than 13 metres above ground in front of the Tsim Sha Tsui Centre.

Karen is a journalist and writer covering politics and legal affairs in Hong Kong for HKFP. She has also written features on human rights, public space, regional legal developments, social and grassroots activism, and arts & culture. She is a BA and LLB graduate from the University of Hong Kong.