To optimise the use of land resources, the Government has put in place a scheme “for short-term uses of government sites”, allowing non-government organisations (NGOs) and social enterprises to apply for renting temporary vacant government sites (including vacant school premises) available for community, institutional or non-profit-making uses. To encourage NGOs to make good use of vacant government sites to take forward worthy projects for the community, the Development Bureau (DEVB) launched the $1 billion funding scheme in 2019 to support grantee organisations in pursuing basic restoration works, such as site formation, erection of temporary structures, renovation of existing premises and provision of pedestrian/vehicular access. This time, I have invited colleagues from the DEVB to brief us on the implementation of the funding scheme, and some of the successful applicant organisations will also share with us their experiences in the restoration of vacant sites or school premises.
25 projects with funding granted
Assistant Secretary (Planning) of the DEVB, Ms CHEUNG Man-yan, German, says that a total of 25 projects have been granted funding since the launch of the funding scheme, with a total funding amount of about $512 million, covering areas such as community services, public recreational space, promotion of art and culture, sports and training programmes, community gardening, animal adoption and guide dog training. Of these projects, seven have come into operation upon completion of construction works, while construction works for another seven have commenced, scheduled for completion successively this year or next. The remaining projects are in the detailed design and ground investigation stages.
Opening of “Quarryside”, a community space at the Quarry Bay harbourfront
In one of the seven projects already in operation, a government site at the Quarry Bay harbourfront has recently been developed into a community space—“Quarryside”. I am pleased to have attended its opening ceremony earlier on, witnessing the commissioning of this harbourfront facility run by St. James’ Settlement (SJS). Chief Executive Officer of SJS, Ms Josephine LEE, says that local residents have been hoping for more greening and leisure spaces. Located in proximity to residential and commercial areas, the site offers an “urban oasis” for the residents and people working nearby to engage in leisure activities or hold various events through venue bookings. She also thanked the DEVB for funding the construction cost of the “Quarryside” project and co-ordinating with other government departments for them during the construction period, thereby facilitating the smooth completion and commissioning of the project.
Stray animal shelter in Kam Tin
Another project involves a government site in Kam Tin, Yuen Long. Founder of the stray animal shelter that has been granted approval for renting the site, Ms Ivy TSE, says that, before they were granted approval for using the site, they had to rent a site in Kam Tin at a monthly rent as high as some $40,000. Now that they have been granted the use of the government site by a short-term tenancy with funding support, their financial pressure of building the shelter has been greatly relieved. The shelter has also helped accommodate animals affected by the development of the North East New Territories New Development Areas. Compared with ordinary animal shelters, this shelter can provide a larger activity area with air-conditioning and sufficient drainage, giving the dogs a more comfortable living environment. Besides, the building is installed with sound insulation fittings, thereby minimising its impact on the surrounding environment.
Turning vacant school premises in Yuen Long into community service centre
In another funded project, the Muhammadia Ghosia Islamic Community Centre helps ethnic minorities integrate into the community by making use of a vacant school premises. Director of the Centre, Mr Nadeem HUSSAIN, says that they had been providing services at a centre in Yuen Long. To better serve the community, they co-organised events, including religious, cultural and extra-curricular activities, with various NGOs. In view of the growing service needs, they applied for renting the vacant school premises in Yuen Long and sought relevant funding from the Government. During the process, they came across numerous technical problems, such as lack of understanding of the documents and application procedures concerned. Under the auspices of the DEVB and the Lands Department, the problems were smoothed away. With its official commissioning, the Centre has helped ethnic minorities integrate into the community.
Vacant school premises in Tsuen Wan contributing to the promotion of photographic culture
The former Chuen Lung Koon Man School in Tsuen Wan, which is now under construction, is expected to become a photographic cultural centre by the end of this year. Director of the Hong Kong Photographic Culture Association Limited (the grantee organisation of the school premises), Mr Ike CHEUNG, says that the Association first held the Hong Kong International Photo Festival in 2010, with a view to constructing a communication platform of photographic culture between Hong Kong and the world. In 2018, it went further and first held the Satellite Exhibitions in collaboration with different venues, bringing photographic culture to the public space. However, it has always been their hope to have a fixed location with freely usable space to promote the development of photography integrated with local culture. With the granting of a lease over the vacant school premises and funding support, the Association can move its goal forward.
Architect of the above project, Ms Fanny ANG, says that as the school premises is located in a rural area of the New Territories, its original infrastructure, such as drainage, water and electricity supply, had to be reinstalled so as to comply with the existing legislation and meet the operational needs of the centre. In this connection, they had to liaise with numerous government departments; thanks to the co-ordination efforts of the DEVB, her consultancy team could tackle the problems more efficiently.
Timely review of the funding scheme’s operation
With more and more projects coming on stream, former vacant government sites will be put to good use and revitalised as new community facilities. In the days to come, we hope to co-operate with more NGOs, with a view to capitalising on community wisdom for gainful use of land resources. Moreover, we will consolidate our experiences and timely review the operation of the funding scheme, so as to benefit more NGOs.
25 June, 2023Back