Supporting the use of vacant government sites (2)
Last week, I wrote a post on the $1 billion funding scheme launched by the Development Bureau (DEVB) to help non-government organisations (NGOs) pursue basic restoration works on vacant government sites. At present, among the eight approved projects, two have commenced restoration works, which are expected to be completed in the second half of this year. The remaining projects will gradually commence restoration works or advance works, including the detailed design and site investigation, within this year. In this post, a colleague from the DEVB will brief us on how we help the organisations pursue restoration works. Moreover, two responsible persons of a social service organisation will tell us about their plan to turn a vacant village school campus into an integrated community centre.
Technical support to facilitate works
Under the funding scheme, apart from granting funds, the Government offers technical advice and support to facilitate smooth completion of the restoration works. Two projects have completed the detailed design, site investigation and surveys, as well as tendering of contract, and restoration works are now underway. Ms CHEUNG Man-yan, German, Assistant Secretary (Planning), says that the DEVB will closely monitor the progress of the works and will request these organisations to submit periodic progress reports.
Furthermore, the DEVB will conduct site inspections and take part in works progress meetings to ensure work safety, works quality, completion of the works on schedule and as required under the contract, as well as construction cost control. In case any problems arise during the construction period, the DEVB and relevant government professional departments will offer technical support to ensure smooth completion of works, so that the new facilities can be open to the public as soon as possible. Ms German CHEUNG says that during implementation of the projects, grants will be disbursed on a reimbursement basis according to the works progress. For organisations affected by the recent epidemic, flexibility will be exercised by releasing partial subsidy in advance to help them ride out financial difficulties.
Turning an old village school into a community centre
Having obtained the lease on the former Small Trader New Village Public School in Nam Sang Wai, Yuen Long, the Yuen Long Kam Kwong Church is planning to turn the old campus into an integrated community service centre, and restoration works have already started. Ms YAU Ka-man, Officer-in-charge of the centre, says that Yuen Long has seen rapid development over the past years, resulting in a sharp increase in demand for social services. Currently operating in a small and remote area in Kam Tin, the centre can barely meet the needs of the community. On the contrary, the former Small Trader New Village Public School is located near the Yuen Long West Rail Station, and occupies an area of 882 square metres, twice as large as the existing site. Upon completion of the renovation works, the centre will have a larger area to provide more different services to benefit even more of the local community.
Commissioning in August
Ms YAU Ka-min says, officers from the DEVB have approached them proactively. Apart from giving funding support, they joined hands with the centre to take forward the project by providing professional advice on the restoration works. She expresses that the works are expected to be completed by the end of July, enabling the new site to commence operation in August. Mr HO Chi-kin, Stanley, Service Development Officer of the centre, says that the vacant school premises have some basic facilities, but they still need to carry out extensive renovation and apply for water and electricity supply, as well as other related operating licences, so as to meet the updated legal requirements. With the assistance from various professional departments throughout the process, the restoration works are going smoothly.
Diversified services of the centre
Mr Stanley HO says, after renovation, the centre will provide different facilities suitable for different age groups, including a multi-function room, a common area with computers, a reading corner, a kitchen, a children’s play room, a conference room and offices. These facilities will enable the centre to organise different activities and interest classes, and provide counselling services, adhering to its holistic approach in serving the local residents from diversed backgrounds, including young children, the elderly, ethnic minorities, young people and those who have suffered from emotional problems.
I am very happy to know that the grantee organisations, apart from receiving the funding support, have found the assistance from our colleagues targeted, practical and useful. This is exactly what the funding scheme is aiming to achieve, i.e. to turn vacant government sites into new usable premises for worthy projects benefitting the community as soon as possible. I would like to take this opportunity to thank my colleagues from the DEVB, the Planning Department and the Lands Department who have been working very hard to promote gainful use of vacant government sites in support of socially beneficial initiatives.
On a different note, regarding the deliberation by the National People’s Congress of a draft Decision on establishing and improving the legal system and enforcement mechanisms for the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) to safeguard national security, the Chief Executive briefed the media and issued a statement last Friday. For details, please visit the following webpage:
I hope the general public will understand that safeguarding national sovereignty, security and development interests is the constitutional requirement of the HKSAR, the duty of the HKSAR Government, and also in the interest of all the Hong Kong residents. The fundamental objective of the Decision is to safeguard national security and the prosperity and stability of Hong Kong, thereby better protecting the legitimate rights and freedoms of all members of the public in Hong Kong. The Government will, as always, continue to facilitate the prosperity and stability of society to make Hong Kong a better place to live and work in.
24 May, 2020