To optimise the utilisation of land resources, non-government organisations (NGOs) and social enterprises may submit applications to the Lands Department (LandsD) for short-term tenancy (STT) of government sites available for short-term uses. This time, I have invited a colleague from the LandsD to talk about the STT applications for these sites, and one of the NGOs which have been granted an STT site will share experience with us.
Sites with no long-term development plans yet
Senior Estate Surveyor of the LandsD, Mr LAU Chi-kin, Jacky, says that these STT sites are temporary vacant sites with no long-term development plans yet for various reasons which include, among others, being undergoing a long-term planning study or far from implementation of development uses. Besides, the use of many these sites is constrained by unresolved technical issues such as infrastructure and transport constraints and lack of vehicular access.
Sites available for application for community or non-profit-making purposes on a short-term basis
The Government recognises the diverse demands of NGOs and social enterprises for land. For certain uses, a large area of land or vehicular access is not necessarily required, nor is the construction of high density buildings. For instance, pieces of agricultural land in remote areas can be used as leisure farms, and spaces underneath flyovers be brought into community use. In view of the above, the LandsD, from 2017 onwards, has uploaded information of the sites available for STT applications onto its GeoInfo Map website for interested organisations to apply for short-term uses for community, institutional or non-profit-making purposes, so as to optimise the use of land.
Subsidising basic restoration works to be pursued
Of the applications received from organisations in respect of more than 120 sites over the past three years, some 30 cases were granted approval for taking forward projects pertaining to community service, community garden, guide dog training, arts activities, promotion of the Hakka culture, animal adoption, transitional housing, etc. In 2019, the Development Bureau (DEVB) launched the Funding Scheme to Support the Use of Vacant Government Sites by NGOs to support successful applicants in pursuing basic restoration works in a bid to take forward worthy projects for the community.
Giving prime consideration to the uses beneficial to the community
Mr Jacky LAU says that in granting approval for applications from NGOs, the LandsD gives prime consideration to the proposed short-term uses that are beneficial to the community and supported by the relevant policy bureaux to ensure proper use of the sites in line with the Government’s policy. Besides, the LandsD will conduct local consultation to gauge views from local residents and relevant stakeholders; applicants’ operating capability will also be taken into consideration. Last year, the LandsD enhanced its guidelines to the effect that processing of STT application should normally be completed within 12 months from the date of receipt of such valid application. Provision of adequate information by the applicant organisation at the early stage of application will help the LandsD expedite the processing.
Turning an old school premises into a theatre education centre
As one of the 30-odd approved STT applications, the Hong Kong Repertory Theatre has been granted approval for renting the Ex-Portuguese Community School (Escola Camões) at No. 7 Cox’s Road in Jordan in a plan to revitalise this Grade 2 historic building into a theatre education centre which will provide a range of drama courses and workshops for the promotion of theatrical arts. To this end, funding has been granted under the DEVB’s funding scheme to subsidise the works of the project. Project Architect, Mr Tony IP, says that the conversion project is expected to take one year to complete. It is hoped that the revitalisation works will commence by the end of this year and the theatre education centre is expected to commence operation by the end of next year at the earliest.
Offering technical support for project implementation
Apart from granting funds, technical advice and support will also be offered under the DEVB’s funding scheme to facilitate smooth completion of the works. Mr Tony IP says that the DEVB has provided considerable assistance in inter-departmental coordination. Take an STT application as an example. While the LandsD, the Antiquities and Monuments Office, the Buildings Department and the Fire Services Department have different requirements and views in relation to a project, the DEVB has not only played a pivotal role in coordination, but also offered expertise advice on the project design to ensure its cost-effectiveness, thereby achieving best value for money.
I believe that granting of land to NGOs and social enterprises for short-term uses by way of STTs and with the support of the funding scheme is conducive to taking forward worthy projects for the community, which will also be benefited by capitalising on community wisdom. Next week, I will introduce to you some other projects that have made better use of government sites.
Legislative Council General Election
Separately, the nomination period for the Legislative Council (LegCo) General Election started on October 30 and will run until November 12. The number of seats in the LegCo will increase from 70 to 90, with 20 Members returned by geographical constituencies, 30 by functional constituencies and 40 by the Election Committee. The improved electoral system will provide those with political aspirations to serve the community with more opportunities for political participation. I would like to take this occasion to encourage the aspirants to seize the chance and stand for the election, which is scheduled for December 19. I would also like to call on eligible voters to vote on election day, so as to elect high-caliber talents into the Council for the future of Hong Kong.
7 November, 2021Back