The Town Planning Board decided on Tuesday not to revise a plan to build a Vocational Training Council (VTC) campus near Kwung Tong’s Cha Kwo Ling harbourfront, despite opposition from local residents and legislators. Critics say the government backtracked on a previous plan to build a waterfront park on the site.

See also: Hongkongers battle for a waterfront park in Cha Kwo Ling after gov’t quietly rezones site

plan, which included a waterfront park as part of the Kai Tak area development, was released by the government after it conducted three stages of public consultation between 2004 and 2006.

cha kwo ling waterfront
Residents, legislators and concern groups protest against the VTC project in April. File photo:

But in 2016, the residents found out that the government had filed an application to rezone the land and was planning to build a VTC campus there instead. Residents’ groups say that neither Cha Kwo Ling villagers nor those living at Laguna City, a private housing community adjacent to the site, were fully consulted for the plan.

Open space

The Town Planning Board said Tuesday that it will not accept comments and representations on the draft Kai Tak Outline Zoning Plan and agreed that it should not be amended.

“The TPB considers that the area of land near the Cha Kwo Ling waterfront is large enough to accommodate both a G/IC [Government, Institution or Community] facility taking up a development area of 3.2 hectares and open space taking up a total area of 5.2 hectares,” a press release from the government said.

A piece of land measuring 42,035 square metres at Wai Yip Street and Cha Kwo Ling Road was rezoned from “other specified uses” to GIC use and gazetted in February. A Sinopec filling station and a temporary soccer pitch currently occupy the space.

VTC scaled down its plans last year in response to residents’ comments and added a hectare of public open space to the plan.

The board said that, “noting the public aspiration for an accessible and well-designed waterfront area,” it sees potential for enhancing the configuration of the hectare of open space provided by the VTC and its integration with nearby open spaces.

cha kwo ling waterfront
Residents, legislators and concern groups protest against the VTC project in April. File photo:

It added that the campus design should explore how it can better integrate with the waterfront in terms of accessibility, connectivity and air and visual permeability. It urged the government to liaise with the VTC and ask it to consult stakeholders on the issues before finalising the development. It also set out the design requirements in its land grant conditions.

Freddy Tse, vice-chair of a concern group set up by residents to oppose the plan, told HKFP that the group’s members were disappointed and furious after reading the Town Planning Board’s decision, as it did not respond to their main concern, which was to save the waterfront park. The group says the location is the last site where a park can be built on Victoria Harbour’s waterfront.

“They did not respond to the points we raised, and only said they did not accept them.”

He said carrying out the VTC plan would be akin to “killing the only waterfront park [facing Victoria Harbour] in Kowloon East.”

“This design means there will be no waterfront park. The area of open space it mentions is broken up into pieces, fragmented.”

He said the concern group will hold a meeting to discuss its next steps, and will consider judicial review as one of the options.

Catherine is a Canadian journalist and photographer who lived in Beijing for almost two years, working in TV and online media. Aside from Hong Kong and mainland affairs, she is also interested in urban spaces, art and feminism. She holds a BA in Literature and Art History from the University of British Columbia.