Education experts angry at possible third school site turned into flats

Kennedy Town campus could yield 5,000 units, but critics point to shortage of classroom places

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 08 January, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 08 January, 2013, 5:30am

A third school site looks likely to be turned into flats, angering education professionals who say the government is putting housing before schooling needs.

Official confirmation that the authorities are studying the feasibility of turning a five-hectare area of Kennedy Town - which covers the current 500-student Hong Kong Academy - into a public housing project prompted a business chamber to remark that officials had lost an opportunity to solve the acute shortage of school places in the city.

Hong Kong Academy said it would return the land to the government after the temporary lease expired this year. Its students would move to a new campus in Sai Kung, the school said.

"It's unfortunate there is conflicting priority. … It would have made sense to keep something that is purpose-built and functioning as a school," said Janet De Silva, an American Chamber of Commerce board member.

Officials estimate a shortage of 4,200 primary international school places in the next few years. Planners estimate that the site and 16 hectares at Queen's Hill in Fanling - which could also become a public housing estate instead of a private university, as originally planned - would provide at least 20,000 public flats. Part of the former Lee Wai Lee vocational education campus site in Kowloon Tong, may also be developed into homes.

A real estate specialist at City University, Lawrence Poon Wing-cheung, said the Kennedy Town site could generate 5,000 public flats of 500 sq ft each. The Fanling site could provide more than 15,000 public flats.

Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying is expected to unveil measures to ease the problems of sky-high rents and property prices in his policy address next week.

Legislator Ip Kin-yuen, who represents the education sector, said more innovative solutions could be found without sacrificing other needs. "The policy of building more housing [affects] all other policies, say sports stadiums and education. But is land for housing in such shortage? We have a lot of land [reserved] for small houses," Ip said, without directly commenting on the Hong Kong Academy.

The potential development in Kennedy Town is under review by both the Planning Department and Housing Authority with plans to build public flats for rent or sale, officials confirmed yesterday.

Separately, Baptist University students yesterday protested at the government offices in Admiralty against a Planning Department proposal to rezone part of the Kowloon Tong campus into a medium-rise residential site for 495 flats last month. The proposal submitted to the Town Planning Board was delayed for further talks.