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LCQ19: Vacant school premises

     Following is a question by the Hon Albert Chan and a written reply by the Secretary for Education, Mr Michael Suen, in the Legislative Council today (January 13):


     I have learnt that at present, many non-profit making organisations have applied to the Government for using vacant school premises but in vain, resulting in many vacant school premises not being put to good use.  In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(a) of the numbers and gross floor areas (in table form) of vacant primary school premises and secondary school premises as at December of this school year, with a breakdown by District Council district; how the authorities plan to deal with such vacant school premises;

(b) of the names of the non-profit making organisations now applying for using such vacant school premises, the purposes involved and the names of the schools to which such school premises belonged before becoming vacant;

(c) of the number of vacant school premises which had been approved for use by non-profit making organisations in each of the past three school years, the locations of such school premises and names of the schools to which such school premises belonged before becoming vacant, as well as the names of the organisations which were given approval for using those premises, the purposes and years of use of such school premises; and

(d) whether the authorities will consider expediting the feasibility study on converting suitable vacant school premises into care-and-attention homes, so as to alleviate the problem of short supply of residential care places; if they will, of the details; if not, the reasons for that?



(a)  From 2003/04 to 2009/10 school years (up to December 2009), 77 primary schools have ceased operation as a result of under-enrolment of primary one students under the arrangements for school consolidation implemented since the 2003/04 school year.  Separately, 15 secondary schools have ceased operation during the same period.  A breakdown of the 92 premises by district is at Annex A.  It is noteworthy that the gross floor areas of the school buildings vary depending on the year of construction, type of school use, size of the site, etc.  We do not possess the information of the gross floor areas of all the school premises.
     The Education Bureau has a mechanism for handling vacant school premises.  We will consider if the size, location and physical conditions of the premises would render it suitable for re-allocation for school or other educational uses.  For premises which are considered suitable to be so re-cycled, we will consult relevant bureaux/departments as appropriate to see if re-allocation of these premises for further school or other educational uses is possible.  Among the 92 premises concerned, 19 have already been deployed for further educational uses while 30 have been re-allocated/provisionally earmarked for such uses.  The Education Bureau and the relevant users (where confirmed) have been taking forward plans to re-use the premises in the short term.  

     Given their limited size and remote locations, the remaining 43 premises are considered not suitable/required for further educational uses and may be available for other uses according to the established arrangement where applicable.  Should individual bureaux/departments indicate interest in any of these premises/sites that are on Government land (Note) in support of the initiatives under their purview, the departments concerned including Government Property Agency and Lands Department would check whether there are any designated or competing uses and process bureaux/departments'requests.  

(b) Among the 43 returned premises, we understand that 15 applications for use of such premises as listed in Annex B are being considered by departments concerned.  Since the applications for use of the premises are being processed and involve submissions by individual organisations/members of the public, the Administration is not in a position to disclose details at this stage.  

(c) Over the past three school years, three premises have been approved by Lands Department for use by non-profit making organisations for other uses.  The use of two premises were approved in 2008/09 school year while that of one premises was approved in 2007/08 school year.  Details are set out in Annex C.  

(d) In view of the growing demand for subsidised residential care places for the elderly, the Social Welfare Department (SWD) has been in close liaison with relevant government departments to explore the feasibility of constructing residential care homes for the elderly (RCHEs) in new development projects or re-development projects (e.g. public housing estates) under their purview, or converting vacant government buildings (e.g. school premises which have ceased operation) into RCHEs.

     In exploring the suitability of a particular site or premises for development as an RCHE, SWD will look into various factors, including whether the size of the concerned site or premises allows the construction or re-modelling of an RCHE of a certain scale so as to achieve cost effectiveness, and the accessibility of the site or premises by public transport to facilitate visits by family members of the elders.  Besides, places with bad air quality or those affected by noise pollution may not be suitable for elders to reside in.  SWD therefore also has to consider the facilities and development projects in the vicinity during the site searching process.

     In the past few years, SWD has identified several vacant school premises and explored the feasibility of converting them into RCHEs.  Nevertheless, most of the school premises were found in the end not suitable for the purpose owing to their relatively small size or other constraints (e.g. lifts or ramps could not be installed or constructed to facilitate access by frail elders because of structural limitations).  SWD will continue to identify sites and vacant buildings for development of RCHEs through different means.  

Note: For premises falling within private land, the land would have to be surrendered by the landowner or re-entered by the Government before it can be put to alternative uses.

Ends/Wednesday, January 13, 2010
Issued at HKT 14:46


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