School's plan for flats will be bad news for residents in Repulse Bay
Hong Kong International School is seeking Town Planning Board approval to expand its campus with 200 more student places in Repulse Bay and 300 in Tai Tam.
Few will disagree that Hong Kong needs these international school places badly, and most will welcome a high quality institution with a proven track record providing these. But Repulse Bay residents are worried about the building height and traffic impact. To alleviate fears, the school will start mandating students to use school buses and Southern District Council has asked that the scheme is implemented soon.
This only solves part of the problem. To pay for the expansion, the Education Bureau hopes the school is allowed to build a residential complex with 63 apartments, which more than doubles all residential units in South Bay Close, Repulse Bay, which is a small street.
During a meeting of the district development and environment committee of Southern District Council, the Education Bureau erroneously claimed that the school would fund the development itself without public money, ignoring that granting air rights for residential units - taking account of the non-transferable and limited-to-staff status - equals a financial grant of HK$2 billion by the public.
The public pays for this with a loss of view, impact on the landscape and increase in transport demand from the families who move in. Although the solution may appear expedient from both the school and bureau's point of view, it runs roughshod over good planning. Will this be the start of all Hong Kong schools becoming residential towers with a school attached? In-situ commercial and residential development rights to pay for rail and urban renewal has led to walled buildings, and is now being reconsidered in response to public aspirations. The Town Planning Board has started to put a hold on redevelopment of churches and hospitals into large complexes, recognising that existing government and institutional land uses provide a welcome relief in our high density and congested environment.
With the intermittent closure of the Aberdeen Tunnel now averaging 10 times a day, is there room for 63 new residential units in Repulse Bay? Has the government not halted new developments in the south side? Why does it not use its enormous surplus of premiums earned on land throughout the SAR to fund Hong Kong's education infrastructure?
Paul Zimmerman, Southern district councillor