Empty schools eyed for new use

Local | Sophie Hui 18 May 2017

The Planning Department is reviewing the use of 183 abandoned campuses, with about one-tenth of them suggested for residential purposes.

The biggest number of campuses under review are in Yuen Long - 50 - followed by 35 in North District and 26 in Tai Po.

However, not all will be used for flats. Only 18 sites have been suggested for or turned into homes. Among the 18, five are in Yuen Long, four in Kwai Tsing, two in Sham Shui Po and the rest in Central and Western, Eastern, North, Sai Kung, Tuen Mun, Wong Tai Sin and Islands districts.

Ching Chun Court in Kwai Tsing, whose construction will finish this year, is an abandoned campus used for homes. It used to be Hong Kong Sze Yap Commercial & Industrial Association Chan Lai So Chun Memorial School, a primary school which closed in summer 2006 due to under- enrollment. The government announced its demolition in 2011.

The authorities suggested residential use for Hong Kong Sam Yuk Secondary School in Wan Chai, as well as Hong Kong Academy in Sai Wan. There are plans to transform Confucian Society Victoria English Primary School in Causeway Bay into Tai Hang Fire Dragon Heritage Centre, which is expected to open in 2019.

A total of 128 abandoned campuses, or about 70 percent, have been recommended or retained for government, institution or community uses.

The Planning Department said a review of vacant school premises sites is conducted annually and the result is uploaded on to its website after each review.

The Audit Commission criticized the Education Bureau's bad management of vacant schools in its report released in April 2015, with many partially utilized or allocated for temporary uses for a long period.

Education-sector legislator Ip Kin- yuen also questioned the bureau on handling vacant premises in February this year, urging the government to increase transparency by publishing an updated list of empty schools available for use online.

Although the Planning Department has released a list of abandoned campuses and recommendations for long-term use, Ip criticized the authorities.

"The government should consider prioritizing education use for those vacant sites. Some sites on the list are near those matchbox-style substandard schools that need to be replaced or rebuilt as soon as possible," he said.

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