FAQ: Chater reclamation - Central and Western | Gwulo: Old Hong Kong

FAQ: Chater reclamation - Central and Western

Answers from the LegCo Report of 22 Mar 1889 

"The Praya Reclamation Ordinance, 1889" containing the necessary provisions for carrying out a great scheme of reclamation in front of the central and western portions of the Town of Victoria.

What was the project (now called the Chater reclamation)?

1. To build a cut-stone sea-wall in front of the present Praya and at an average distance from it of about 260 feet, along its whole length extending from the War Office property at the North Barracks to the Gas Works, a distance of some 3,400 yards, or nearly two miles.

2. To fill in with earth and stone the intervening space, comprising an area of some 56 acres, in such a manner that it shall be available for building purposes; and

3. To construct upon this reclaimed area the necessary streets with all requisite channels and sewers, a work which, besides a considerable number of cross-streets, will include a new Praya, 75 feet in width along the whole length of the new sea-wall, and the widening to 75 feet for a similar distance of the present Praya which will thus become an inland street.

How much would it cost?

The cost of all these works, the amount of which is estimated at somewhat more than $2,500,000,

Who would pay for it?

The owners of the marine frontage affected by the proposed reclamation, on the terms arranged in the correspondence which has been published, and now expressed in this Ordinance.

Was this a private or public project ?

since the maintenance of the new sea-wall when completed will be a charge on the public funds, it has been deemed necessary that its construction should be under the strict supervision of the Government.

What were the legal issues for owners of seafront lots?

Though the owners of frontage-lots, are not in a position analogous to that of riparian proprietors, inasmuch as they have no immediate access to the sea (the foreshore having for many years been occupied by a wide public street), it is held that whatever may be their legal rights they have for various reasons, well understood here, a moral claim to compensation in respect of reclamations in front of their land.

Why were the frontage lot owners allowed profit from the reclamation ?

To avoid the endless litigation that would otherwise arise in respect of the complicated interests involved, it has been deemed right to come to terms with them, under which they will undertake the whole cost and risk of the work, and will receive in return a very large share of the profits,

Did the Governor agree?

No.  The Governor was of opinion that this profit on the part of the lot-holders was unduly large; and that either they should pay a considerable sum by way of premium, or the Government should carry out the reclamation on its own account, paying equitable compensation for any injury to private rights.

Who overruled the Governor?

The Secretary of State however did not take this view, and has decided that in any case negotiations have gone too far to impose any such stipulation now;

Why ?
the Secretary of State's decision on the scheme, which, whatever the gain of individuals, is fraught with unquestionably great advantages to the public. These are shortly as follows:―

(1.) The provision of some 32 acres of building sites, which, when covered with houses (as they are morally certain to be as soon as completed) will afford a substantial relief to the present congested condition of the Town of Victoria or at least will tend to prevent the still further overcrowding of that contiguous portion of the Town which already is probably more densely populated than any other equal space in the world.

(2.) The conversion into wholesome drained land of the present noxious foreshore, which is becoming year by year a more serious nuisance, and involving an ever increasing danger to the health of the community.

(3.) A great improvement in the Port, as regards the conditions of discharging cargoes, arising from the fact that vessels of large draught will be able to lie alongside the proposed sea- wall throughout its entire length, and thus save considerable sums in lighterage.

(4.) A large pecuniary gain to the Colonial Treasury consisting of,―

(a.) The profit from that portion of the reclamation to be undertaken by the Government in front of its own property; the land to be thus reclaimed being estimated at the value of $1,803,956, against an estimated cost of $362,369, showing a probable net profit of $1,441,587.

Where did the reclamation matererial come from ? Kennedy Town.

(b.) A probable return estimated, (according to the low rate of $1 per square foot), at $300,000, from land in Kennedytown now useless, which will be converted into valuable building sites by the removal of rock and earth for the proposed reclamation.

(c.) Rent from the sites last mentioned and from the reclaimed land estimated at $29,200 per annum.

Would the appearance of the waterfront be improved ?

the greatly improved appearance in the front of the Town which will be brought about bythe supervision to be exercised in respect of the character of the buildings erected.

How can this reclamation be claimed to be for a "public purpose" ?

In view of this catalogue of advantages, it cannot be doubted that the prosecution of this great scheme is in the strictest sense a "public purpose" as defined by the Ordinance, and, the question whether the lot-holders should receive somewhat more or less profit would seem, after all, of such comparative insignificance, that it should not be permitted for a moment to stand in the way of so vast a public improvement.

For against the expected profits of the private persons concerned has to be set the risk, by no means slight, which they will have to incur in respect of typhoons and other accidents; while as regards both the rent to be paid by them, ($800 per acre), and the large area (26 acres) for streets, which the public will obtain free of cost, the conditions under which this work will be undertaken are at least more onerous than have been exacted from the adjoining lot-owners in the case of any previous reclamations. And when it is moreover considered that an enterprise involving great, many and varied interests will be carried out with comparatively little, and it is hoped without any litigation, the Governor cannot but feel that the Colony is to be congratulated on the conclusion of the arrangement to be sanctioned by this Ordinance. \

the Governor thinks it well to refer briefly to an objection which he understands has been made to the third paragraph of the 6th clause of the published draft, by which

What about compensation to lot holders who do not agree ?

compensation to dissentient lot-holders is left to the discretion of the Governor. It should be remembered in the first place that the tenure of every one of the lot-holders is under a lease containing a condition, by which his land may at any time be resumed for a public purpose, the Surveyor General being in such case constituted the sole arbitrator―so that if the land of any lot-holder were to be, as it legitimately might be, resumed for this public purpose, the position created for him by a condition to which he has voluntarily submitted already, could hardly be regarded as preferable to that contemplated by the proposed enactment.  (this assumes) that the frontage lot-holders have no legal rights in the foreshore. In this view they are strictly entitled to compensation only in respect of the actual depreciation of their property by the reclamation in front of it; and as in the case of former reclamations here the value of the adjoining land has never, the Governor understands, been affected otherwise than favourably, it is very possible that the lot-holder, if in this case left to his legal rights alone, would obtain no compensation at all.

But by the provision in question there can be taken into account the moral claims above mentioned; so that instead of being a hardship to the dissentient lot-holder, the clause in reality will operate for his protection. If however there should prove to be any lot-holder who not only declines the agreement which has received the approval of the great majority and is embodied in this Ordinance, but also prefers to stand solely on his legal rights, it seems only fair that means should be found for enabling him to do so.

Why is it called the Chater reclamation?

the Governor deems it well to acknowledge thus publicly the service which has been rendered to the Colony by the Honourable C. P. CHATER, in initiating this great enterprise, and in assisting to bring about the arrangement under which it will be accomplished.

It is also only right to mention in this place the Honourable J. M. PRICE, whose able reports on the project have secured its approval by the highest engineering authority in England and its sanction by the Secretary of State.


Annelise, that's a good read, thanks for posting.

I'm trying to think where they'd have got that much rock and soil from in Kennedy Town. Does anyone know if they went ahead with Kennedy Town as the source? And if they did, where they excavated?

Regards, David