Red tape holds up the opening of new campus

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 02 September, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 02 September, 2007, 12:00am

Red tape has delayed the opening of the new campus of Lantau International School in Pui O, its headmaster says.

The school is still waiting for the lands and buildings departments to approve the use of its buildings, comprising three village houses, as an educational facility.

About 60 children, who were due to arrive for class tomorrow, will now have to start school at least one week later.

Headmaster Serge Berthier said the school submitted applications to both departments in June but was only notified by the Buildings Department on Tuesday that one of the houses was slightly too big. The school says this is not the case.

He said the Buildings Department had only carried out a survey on August 21.

Mr Berthier said he had not heard from the Lands Department, which oversees the use of village houses in the New Territories, for three months because the department had no director during that period.

'This is red tape. Nobody cares that it is a school,' he said.

A survey is scheduled for Tuesday by the Buildings Department. If the school is found to have complied with rules concerning the size of the house in question, the department will issue an approval on the spot.

Mr Berthier said the school would begin classes in a week regardless of whether it received approval or not.

'We have no choice. We will open even without the paper,' he said.

Legislator Albert Chan Wai-yip, who has helped the school with its case, said the government departments should understand that the school needed approval to begin operating this month.

'The two departments took two months to get back to the school. They should know that time is running short,' he said.

He said he would send letters to the departments' directors asking them to process the applications urgently.

A spokeswoman for the Buildings Department said some conservation work on the village houses had been noted in an inspection and they were now consulting the school about the necessary steps to be taken.

A spokeswoman for the Lands Department said it had received the school's application in mid-June but could only process it when all the required supplementary submissions were received early last month.

She said the department had given the application its 'highest priority'.

The Education Bureau indicated it would conduct inspections of the school and take appropriate action if it operated without the proper registration.