Friday, July 06, 2007

Great Wall of West Kowloon

Some residents in West Kowloon applied to the Court of First Instance for a judicial review of the decision of the Town Planning Board and the Planning Department to zone a parcel of waterfront land in Tai Kok Tsui as residential with no height restrictions.

In dismissing the application, the judge said he could not find which regulations were breached. The applicant’s argument was that the Urban Design Guidelines issued by the Planning Department “articulate that the building erected along the seaside shall be lower than the building inland and make special preservation for breezeways and view corridors,” but he was unable to produce the document. The judge also noted that it was incumbent upon people seeking judicial reviews to provide the court with sufficient materials so that the court could identify what decision it was supposed to be reviewing, “giving chapter and verse …”

Two things struck me. Firstly, that a supposedly modern city such as Hong Kong should be without such planning and restrictions. Government officials must know that such seaside walls raised the inland temperatures by several degrees, among other harmful effects; so the only logical conclusion is that they don’t care. Most likely they live up on the mid-levels or on the peak so they are not affected. Secondly, how can people who do not have the information and resources ever win, in this supposedly fair judicial system? When everything is said and done, money still rules.

No wonder people who have the money and the power tend to be conservatives – the topic of discussion between my daughter and I over a recent dinner.

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