An industrialist's initiative to convert part of his factory into a cheap rehearsal studio for artists has failed to win the support of the Planning Department.
The project has the support of the Home Affairs Bureau and the Arts Development Council, but does not satisfy fire safety requirements, the department said yesterday.
The department advises the Town Planning Board, which meets tomorrow to decide whether to approve the application, submitted by Joseph Lee Chung-tak's Wofoo Foundation. 'The approval of the application would set an undesirable precedent for other similar applications for rehearsal studios for performing arts within industrial buildings, which is unacceptable from the fire safety point of view,' the department wrote in a paper.
The foundation proposes turning the fourth, fifth and sixth floors of the building in Texaco Road, Tsuen Wan, into rehearsal studios, providing a space of about 4,000 square metres.
The foundation's initiative was a response to the government's appeal last year to owners of industrial buildings to provide affordable space for the artistic community, which has complained that surging rents, even in factory buildings, are threatening its future.
The rising rents were partly the result of a government scheme to encourage owners to redevelop or reuse former industrial properties.
The applicant said that, subject to approval, it would lease the floors to the Arts Development Council as a base for drama, dance and opera, with rents much lower than market rates.
The rent would be HK$3.50 to HK$4.50 per square foot, according to the council, which would manage the space and sub-let it.
Lee could not be reached for comment yesterday. He runs a plastics business and holds a number of public posts, including chairing the Committee on the Promotion of Civic Education.
The Planning Department says the proposed studio is not sufficiently separated from the storage and warehouse uses below and above it.
The department is concerned that if flammable materials were stored there, studio users would be at risk in the event of a fire.
A buffer floor, used for car parking or electrical and mechanical functions, was required, it said.