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Feed-back from readers on the Mega Tower Deal

“Stop picking bones out of an egg. The public appreciates your hard work to fight for a better environment. We are so glad to see that your work gets a 'return' today. The strategy should now shift to ask for more open public space rather than trying to ban this project. Public opinion and their feedback are important.”

“The traffic in Queen's Road East is already increasing due to the completion of a number of new developments. I find getting through Queens Road East slower and slower in the past 5 years. Queen's Road East is a 2-way street, how could this handle traffic generated from the new Mega Tower? The idea of converting Wanchai into a new shopping and lifestyle suburb is great but creating huge traffic jam in the area is beyond all social benefit.”

“Allowing the MegaTower is simply criminal. Together with the new URA developments, traffic comes to a grinding halt. It is already impossible today.”

“Why is it in Hong Kong we are always fighting battles which we should not have to? We could focus our energy on constructive issues if planning in Hong Kong was done with the public and long term community value in mind rather than short term gain.”

“The developer and government are colluding. Hopewell has a right to develop their own land, we don't disagree. Why do they launch this plan with such a big fuss? Because they need people's approval to allow Government to sell more land to Hopewell! They are taking public land and destroying many mature trees! Hopewell and Government think that people are dumb. They produce figures showing a concession offered but they are still gangsters, robbing us! Why do we allow them to rob public land? Even if we lose the battle, we still have to write history showing that this collusion is wrong.”

“These issues are very complex for the public and press to understand. It is a very smart proposal as they make it appear like a good thing for the common man. The claim that the developer has reduced the project GFA by 30% from its original proposal, but in fact Hopewell is getting 60% more than the development rights it is entitled to on its own land.”

“The so-called 'compromise’ announced by Carrie Lam raises fundamental questions on the planning process.”

“Government said that the new proposal would not need Town Planning Board approval since it is a ‘minor’ amendment. This is fundamental nonsense. It is a significant change in density and height, and NOT a minor change. A proper submission to the TPB gives the public a chance to respond, and the TPB can then judge this joint proposal from the Government and the developer based on prevailing public values.”

“Why would a Bureau Secretary announce a private sector development plan on behalf of a private developer, and take away the authority of the TPB? By doing so the Secretary for Development shows a gross disregard of due process and sets a dangerous precedent.”

“Did you read the SCMP editorial today? Talk about brown nosing – something to do with full page ads no doubt. Some of the statements are blatantly untrue. See the 'kept it active' bit. Hopewell did not keep it active and that is one of the main issues, the application lapsed in 1996 and legal opinion has substantiated this. SCMP must be taken to task for this editorial and for its glowing admiration for what is obviously some very tricky maneuvering. It does not even refer to the obvious collusion between Hopewell and Government. Shame on them.”

November 18: A mega deal - but for who?

Yes, the MegaTower is reduced in size. But it still is a mega development and there is absolutely no indication that this development, together with the permitted Urban Renewal and private developments in Wanchai are sustainable.

The Government has yet to prove that Wanchai will be a great place to live, work, walk through, commute through tomorrow and in the future. The only ones who benefited from this deal are Hopewell and the Government - both will earn money from this. Moreover, the Government avoids possible legal action over sloppy procedures, and Gordon Wu is rewarded for his help in getting Hong Kong the Hong Kong Zhuhai Macau Bridge, because without him it may have never happened.

As for the community, the residents, the people commuting from Happy Valley and the Southside to Central, the residents along Kennedy Road, the tourists hoping to wander around Wanchai - tough luck.

The following letter was published in the South China Morning Post on November 13, 2008. We anticipated yesterday's announcement that the Government and Hopewell would make a deal on the MegaTower development.

November 13: Wan Chai needs diversity at street level

In a letter to the Editor of the South China Morning Post on November 5, a John Cheng informed us that the "developer is negotiating to scale back the size of the hotel to cope with the environment". This is an interesting admission and begs the question as to who the developer is negotiating with. Certainly not with the residents of Kennedy Road and Wan Chai.

It is embarrassing to see how the government is paving the way for Hopewell Holding's version of Times Square and Pacific Place, aptly called Mega Tower. The discussion has been changed from whether Mega Tower is a land use suited for Queen's Road East and Kennedy Road to one of fine-tuning the design and traffic details of this development.

Watch out for further softening up with news about minor adjustments. Don't be surprised by the final dictated glorious conclusion that "the public aspirations have been taken into account, the plan has been adjusted to reduce the traffic impact, it will generate jobs, we can sell land and earn money, we have balanced all interests, it's a go-ahead".

However, before the government sells land to Hopewell, it must prove that Wan Chai will be a great place to live, work and commute through. The public must ask for basic facts. Why rely on individual traffic impact assessments when, for example, Times Square proved that these are entirely inadequate to prevent road congestion?

Where is the overall plan for development and transport demonstrating Wan Chai will be a sustainable quality environment to live and work in? The outline zoning plan does not guarantee that the aspirations of the public for a quality and diverse streetlevel environment are catered for [with this project].

Nobody has shown what Wan Chai will be like once the Urban Renewal Authority and private developers have completed all permitted developments. There is an urgent need now to widen footpaths and create more pedestrian areas and public space. District councillors and their constituents complain about traffic congestion and want more road space which simply does not exist.

Rather than controlling development, the government is promoting some disjointed plans to take pedestrians off the pavements and force them into tunnels and on to footbridges, foregoing any plan or effort to create and guarantee a street-level environment which promotes community-building, interaction and a pleasant experience for visitors.
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