A popular Kennedy Town promenade could be closed for five years to make way for temporary reclamation works under a controversial government development project off Lantau Island.

belcher bay promenade kennedy town
Belcher Bay Promenade at Kennedy Town. Photo: Hillary Leung/HKFP.

The proposed closure of family- and pet-friendly Belcher Bay Promenade was revealed at a meeting of the Harbourfront Commission on Thursday, local media reported. As plans remain at the proposal stage, it is unclear when the works would be expected to begin.

HKFP has reached out to the Harbourfront Commission for comment.

According to details from the meeting, authorities plan to build a road connecting western Hong Kong Island with northeastern Lantau Island. To do so, they would need to carry out temporary reclamation works in front of the promenade.

belcher bay promenade kennedy town
Belcher Bay Promenade at Kennedy Town. Photo: Hillary Leung/HKFP.

The project falls under the government’s Kau Yi Chau Artificial Islands project, a development plan that is forecast to cost at least HK$580 billion and will see the creation of three islands adjacent to Peng Chau and in the waters off Discovery Bay on the eastern end of Lantau Island.

Authorities have said the reclaimed islands would operate as a “work-live-play CBD,” or a central business district, with 210,000 residential flats – a mix of public and private – as well as offer employment opportunities.

Environmental groups, however, have slammed the project, calling its ecological impact – which could include coastal erosion and the destruction of marine habitats – “incalculable.”

belcher bay promenade kennedy town
Belcher Bay Promenade at Kennedy Town. Photo: Hillary Leung/HKFP.

In his maiden policy address delivered last October, Chief Executive John Lee said reclamation works for the Kau Yi Chau Artificial Islands were targeted to begin in 2025.

As an alternative to the closed Belcher Bay Promenade, the government proposed up a new park around 10 minutes away at the site of the former Kennedy Town Incinerator.

‘Round-the-clock leisure space’

The Belcher Bay Promenade opened in phases starting in the first quarter of 2019, featuring a 172-metre-long boardwalk decked out with picnic tables and colourful playground equipment. It tends to fill up with families – some with pets in tow – during the weekends.

belcher bay promenade kennedy town
Belcher Bay Promenade at Kennedy Town. Photo: Hillary Leung/HKFP.

The government has promoted the promenade as “providing the public with a round-the-clock leisure space to enjoy a panoramic view of the western waters of Victoria Harbour. It is also a popular spot for skateboarders and photographers.

Along with waterfronts in Wan Chai, Fortress Hill and Tsuen Wan, the Belcher Bay Promenade is part of the Harbourfront Commission’s Harbourfront Shared Space project, which aims to revitalise the city’s public spaces looking out to the skyline.

belcher bay promenade kennedy town
Belcher Bay Promenade at Kennedy Town. Photo: Hillary Leung/HKFP.

Secretary for Development Bernadette Linn said she hoped residents could understand the proposed closure of the Kennedy Town promenade, adding that it would “only be for five years.”

“We hope to bring permanent improvements. There will be a wider and longer harbourfront in the future,” Linn said during the meeting.

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Hillary Leung is a journalist at Hong Kong Free Press, where she reports on local politics and social issues, and assists with editing. Since joining in late 2021, she has covered the Covid-19 pandemic, political court cases including the 47 democrats national security trial, and challenges faced by minority communities.

Born and raised in Hong Kong, Hillary completed her undergraduate degree in journalism and sociology at the University of Hong Kong. She worked at TIME Magazine in 2019, where she wrote about Asia and overnight US news before turning her focus to the protests that began that summer. At Coconuts Hong Kong, she covered general news and wrote features, including about a Black Lives Matter march that drew controversy amid the local pro-democracy movement and two sisters who were born to a domestic worker and lived undocumented for 30 years in Hong Kong.