Planners reject British school’s campus on Hong Kong waterfront
Managers at Mount Kelly wanted permission for a temporary Hung Hom campus, where they planned to run classes while expanding their Tsim Sha Tsui site
Town planners on Friday rejected the appeal of a troubled British school for a temporary campus overlooking Hong Kong’s harbour, dealing a blow to its plan to expand in the city.
The Town Planning Board decided to uphold its previous ruling that Mount Kelly School could not use a 22,000 sq ft site at the Cheung Kei Centre in Hung Hom for five years while renovating and expanding its campus in Tsim Sha Tsui.
According to the school’s development plan, a temporary campus would have enabled it to reach its enrolment target of 400 pupils by 2021, instead of having to wait until the Tsim Sha Tsui campus is completed in 2023. Without the temporary campus, the school can only admit 150 pupils in 2021, to study at the unfinished Tsim Sha Tsui site.
The board announced its decision on its website after closed-door deliberations. The school had been appealing an earlier planning rejection from September last year, when officials found that its proposal did not fit the area’s planning intention.
A school spokeswoman said after Friday’s decision: “The school is deeply regretful about the result of the appeal. It has taken an effort to address various concerns raised by [the board], but the result is very disappointing to the school.”
She said the school needed to decide what to do next.
The school’s executive director Leung Kam-fong had told the board that many parents had shown interest in enrolling their children but “without the temporary campus, we can only reject many of them, and they won’t wait until we finish expanding our campus”.
Several members of the board raised uncertainties over the long-term plan for the school’s Tsim Sha Tsui campus, fearing if they agreed to let it have the temporary harbour grounds, pupils might end up facing the same issues.
“Education is a very important matter,” board member Frankie Yeung Wai-shing said. “Why can’t the school provide a stable environment for its pupils from the beginning?”
The school is renting part of the second floor of Austin Tower in Tsim Sha Tsui on a five-year lease. A school spokeswoman said earlier that the landlord had promised to renew the contract at the end of the lease.
Leung told members that the school would be able to sign further contracts with the landlord to rent most of the second floor and the entire third floor by November for its expansion.
He added that the only uncertainty concerned a Korean church on the second floor but the school would know whether it could take the church’s premises – thus occupying the entire second floor – by the end of the year.
But Yeung was not convinced.
“There are still many risks,” he said. “Why don’t you come back [in November] when everything is confirmed?”
Another member Lincoln Huang Ling-hang agreed with Yeung.
“Education is a very long-term matter,” he said. “It’s not just about five to 10 years. Does the school have any long-term plan to find a permanent campus so pupils and parents do not have to be worried?”
Leung said the school had already found a permanent campus but could not disclose the location at the meeting.
The Planning Department reiterated its previous concerns that the temporary campus was not in line with the waterfront area’s planning intention.
Kowloon district planning officer Tom Yip Chi-kwai cited harbourfront authorities as saying the site of the proposed Hung Hom campus was intended to host shops and restaurants to attract more people to the area.
Yip said the site was in a commercial building with glass walls, which might be unsafe for teaching and learning activities and the building also lacked outdoor space for pupils.