The government has been urged to review its town planning policy after a property consultancy found nearly 40 per cent of plots in Kowloon Tong - primarily zoned for residential use - have been used for educational or commercial purposes.
Knight Frank found 91 of 227 plots around Waterloo Road and the area's MTR lines have been used for schools, hotels or other commercial purposes. This equates to nearly 1.6 million square feet, which could have been used to build more than 300 homes, the firm estimates.
'The approved outline zoning plan indicates that this zone is intended primarily for low- to medium- rise, as well as low-density, residential developments, in which commercial users serving the residential neighbourhood may be permitted,' the firm's executive director, Alnwick Chan Chi-hing, said. 'But there are 44 kindergartens and schools in the district. Does the neighbourhood need that many schools?'
The Town Planning Board has approved 24 kindergartens and child care centres in the area since 2000.
Chan does not want to see schools forced to close, but wished to point out that the zoning intention for the area had been changed and the board should stop approving applications for non-residential purposes.
A group of his clients in Kowloon Tong claimed victory last week after the Planning Department advised the board not to approve an application by the York English Primary School and Kindergarten to move one of its campuses from 8 York Road to nearby Essex Crescent. The school has been given notice to vacate the York Road site for development. The department said roads in the area could not handle the extra traffic.
Lawrence Poon Wing-cheung, a spokesman for the Institute of Surveyors, agreed that based on traffic concerns, the area could not accommodate more schools. But he said that even though an area may be zoned mainly for residential purposes, that did not mean sites could not be used for other facilities.
'I won't say there's a town planning problem,' Poon said. 'Perhaps back then there were views that students and parents would rely more on public transport than private cars to drop off or pick up their kids.'
A spokeswoman for the Planning Department said the outline zoning plan provided a broad land use framework for the area. There might be some existing uses not conforming to the statutory zonings but which had always been tolerated.