Athletes score in zoning fight
One property developer has come up with a novel way to overcome planning board resistance: adding a public sports centre to a planned residential project.
New Method College failed in 2009 and again last year to persuade the Town Planning Board to rezone its 12,000-square-metre site on Man Fuk Road in Ho Man Tin to residential use from its current 'government, community and institution' zoning.
But, after adding a sports training facility to the plans, the project - including a proposed nine-storey residential building - has been given the green light. It is expected to be completed by 2016.
The HK$300 million project will provide facilities for snooker, fencing and sports for the mentally disabled, according to Duncan Hui Wai-kwok, New Method College's accountant. Each sport would pay a token HK$1 a year to use the facilities.
'Our college has a long tradition in sports and it will be good to see it continue in the new sports centre when redevelopment is completed,' said Hui. 'We have produced many quality fencers for Hong Kong over the years and we hope to see more.'
Cheung Siu-lun, a silver medallist in the men's individual foil event at last year's Asian Games in Guangzhou and his teammate Ngan Kwoon-yat, who won bronze in the men's foil team event, are both New Method College graduates.
The Development Bureau's land and development advisory committee, said in expressing support for the project earlier this month that it would meet changing social needs in the area and ease the current shortage of training venues in three athletics categories.
The Development Opportunities Office is co-ordinating different government departments, including buildings, planning and transport, to aid the project's completion. However, the office said the landowner would still have to go through the statutory procedures.
The school building will be demolished at the end of the current academic year in July. The college stopped accepting new students six years ago.
Hong Kong Billiard Sports Control Council chairman Mak Yiu-hoi welcomed the new training facilities.
'Our status as an elite sport at the Hong Kong Sports Institute is under threat because of the recent change in the Asian Games programme,' he said. 'If we lose our elite status in 2013, when our existing co-operation with the institute ends, we will have to rely on this new centre for our Hong Kong team members and many of the juniors to train.'
Billiard sports, first introduced to the Asian Games in Bangkok in 1998, have been dropped from the next games in Incheon, South Korea, in 2014 and are unlikely to be reinstated for future Asian Games.
Vice-president of the Hong Kong Fencing Association Wong Tsan said his group planned to use the centre as a regional training base and a venue for the juniors. At the moment, all Hong Kong team fencers have to train at the Sports Institute in Sha Tin.
Said Wong: 'Although we don't have to pay the rent, we still have to secure funding for the running cost of the centre and one of the ways is to start classes for the juniors.'