Blind school's plan for luxury estate rejected

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 16 April, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 16 April, 2011, 12:00am


The Town Planning Board yesterday rejected an initial application by the city's only school for the blind to turn its campus in Pok Fu Lam into a low-rise luxury residential estate.

The Ebenezer School wants to move all its facilities to another location, yet to be determined. It currently has about 80 pupils and also has an old people's home for the visually impaired.

The joint proposal put forward by the school and developers Hang Lung Group involves a plan to build either six six-storey residential blocks or three 14-storey blocks of flats. Their application to the board asked for the site to be re-zoned for residential use.

A board spokeswoman said members turned down the application as there was no effective plan in place to ensure the education of its visually impaired students was not disrupted.

However, she added, the site which was currently zoned for government community use, was due to be re-zoned into a comprehensive development area, as recommended by the Planning Department. This means the school could still proceed with its redevelopment plan.

However, it would need to make a separate submission, providing a new site for its campus and a workable timetable for its relocation.

Space for most of the special schools in Hong Kong is provided by the Education Bureau. But the Ebenezer School owns its site in Pok Fu Lam Road.

The bureau has declined to offer it a replacement site, saying the school has no sufficient grounds for relocation as the condition of the buildings and fire safety were satisfactory.

The school told the board yesterday that it had selected four potential sites for relocation: in Yuen Long, Fanling, Sha Tin and Ma On Shan. It also submitted two confidential letters to the board indicating that the school was acquiring one of the sites.

The Planning Department said the timing of the residential development was too vague, and approval at this stage would set an undesirable precedent.

The school, established in 1897 by German missionary Martha Postler, could not be reached for comment.