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Chp 115, Queen’s Pier – Forty years champion for the environment

Queen’s Pier

The Queen’s Pier was not just a pier, but a public space as well as a venue for official ceremony. Governors in the colonial era landed at Queen’s Pier for the welcoming ceremony in Edinburgh Place between Queen’s Pier and City Hall. Both Queen Elizabeth II and the Prince of Wales were officially welcomed in the same spot. It was also the venue of the Opening of the Legal Year, even after the 1997 Handvoer, until recently when the ceremony was relocated to the New Wing of the Hong Kong Convention & Exhibition Centre. But most important of all, Queen’s Pier, Edinburgh Place and City Hall were designed as an integral complex which had been used as a place enjoyed by the ordinary public.

That was why CA objected to the relocation of Queen’s Pier. Even with the inevitability that it would lose its function due to the reclamation, it was CA’s view that it could and should remain in the same place as an icon of history and a living public space.

After the old Star Ferry was brutally destroyed, civil society’s battle for preservation of the Central waterfront heritage moved to Queen’s Pier.

At the Legco Panel on Planning, Lands and Works on 23 January 2007, government promised to conserve Queen’s Pier and would form a working group to work out ways to do so. CA’s submission to LegCo, delivered by Hung Wing Tat, reaffirmed the position that it would be possible and desirable to preserve the Pier intact without jeopardizing the government’s reclamation works. But a compromise solution was also offered, namely, to temporarily move Queen’s Pier aside to make way for the reclamation works and then re-instate the Pier structure at the same location. CA considered that all the featured super-structure including the rooftop, landing steps, signs, seats and pots of the Queen’s Pier could be removed intact with good care. A steel structure with rollers could be constructed to support the rooftop of the pier, which would be rolled aside to either the Edinburgh Place or the newly reclaimed land to make way for reclamation, and reinstated to its original location when reclamation was completed.

 

In the meantime, the Antiquities Advisory Board had decided to conduct its meeting in public on 9 March 2007, at which the Board would decide if Queen’s Pier would be graded as a historical building. Ahead of that, CA wrote to the Chairman of AAB Mr Edward Ho on 5 March urging the AAB “to confer appropriate grade status on Queen’s Pier and Edinburgh Place, with the aim of conserving them as declared monuments eventually.”

The AAB meeting on 9 March was a landmark for being the first meeting to be fully opened to the public, in a public-hearing format, and for the outcome that Queen’s Pier was decided as a Grade I historical building. Despite what followed, that was a victory for civil society and for heritage conservationists.

In the meantime, CA’s Hung Wing Tat took part in the government working group on options to preserve Queen’s Pier. CA’s proposal was presented as one of four options studied by the working group but eventually, on 27 March, the government concluded that its preferred option was to dismantle the pier and re-assemble it elsewhere. The government did concede that CA’s option was feasible but it was allegedly more expensive – a point disputed by CA. CA never disputed that the in-situ options would cause delays as the surface road P2 would have to be re-aligned, necessitating a re-gazetting of the plan. But CA was not convinced that re-gazetting would cause insurmountable problem. Another statement of CA’s was issued on the same day expressing regret over the government decision and asking LegCo to support CA’s option. As a further concession, CA proposed that if the Queen’s Pier were to be removed (as opposed to rolled aside), the government should

  • preserve the structure of the Queen’s Pier as much as possible;
  • appoint a Government architect who has proven experience in building preservation to prepare a preservation plan;
  • place the pier as close to the current location as possible so that the strengthening work of the pier should be easily seen by the public;
  • produce perspective drawings and models to consult the public on the future look of the pier with the new reclamation setting;
  • to delete the planned roads D6 that cut across the Edinburgh Place so that the entire square linking Edinburgh Place, City Hall Upper Block and Lower Block can be enjoyed by the public.

As a last ditch attempt, a “Civil Society Declaration on Queen’s Pier” was drawn up in April 2007 remonstrating with the government to “adhere to the Principles for the Conservation of Heritage Sites in China (the “China Principles”) adopted by the Central Government in 2000. The following Articles were especially cited:

  • Article 18: Conservation must be undertaken in situ
  • Article 19: Intervention should be minimal
  • Article 21: Physical remains should be conserved in their historic condition without loss of evidence
  • Article 24 The setting of heritage site must be conserved.

The statement ended with a petition to the HKSAR Government to adhere to the “China Principles” and develop an effective conservation plan for Queen’s Pier on the basis of the overriding principles of “in-situ conservation, minimal intervention, preserving the current condition, and conserving heritage setting”. Signed by 15 civil society groups, that was the last major public statement before Queen’s Pier was dismantled and the parts stored in Lantau Island.

By 2008, the Queen’s Pier story has not ended. The future location of the re-assembled Queen’s Pier was the subject of the government conducted public consultation on the Central Reclamation Urban Design Study in early 2008. In the course of the study, however, 16 of the 18 District Councils passed motions to support relocation of Queen’s Pier to the waterfront, rather than re-assembly at the original site. CA wrote letters of protest to a few of the District Councils before it was reported in the press that the motions were engineered by the government, as evidenced in identical wording being used in different District Councils.

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August 3, 2015 - Posted by | Dr WK Chan book

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