In a third round of demolitions, more than 10 old buildings near Komtar were demolished over the last week – even before we have seen the George Town Local Plan and before the Special Area Plan for the George Town Unesco heritage zone can be put on public display.
The Penang Development Corporation is undertaking an urban renewal project involving the Komtar Phase 5 area which also includes the Prangin Canal, what’s left of it.
The old buildings in the Magazine Road-Tek Soon Street area should have come under the Local Plan for George Town, which has been promised since 1997. Where is that Local Plan? If the Plan was available, the public would have got to see what is going on before it happens. Unfortunately demolition and clearing took place over the last week (see Kwong Wah report here), and no plan had been exhibited to the general public before work began.
Komtar Phase 5 had been previously delayed due to concerns expressed in heritage circles. As it is a major project just next to the George Town World Heritage site, its impact should have been carefully assessed. Before any work to the area is undertaken, it is important that it is better understood, and that involves researching the archives. Finding out how the canal was built and why it was built the way it was means that it will be better restored or upgraded.
As things stand, few Penangites are even aware of what Phase 5 involves, although we may have stumbled across terms such as “transportation hub” or “urban park” in earlier press reports. But it is all so vague to the public. Why not display the Phase 5 plan in an accessible area for public feedback? That should have been done before any work began.
The two markets, Chowrasta and Campbell, are a separate project. The concern is that urban renewal of the Unesco site is part of the George Town heritage zone Special Area Plan, which is due to be exhibited to the public soon. Will the market projects be part of that exhibition, so that the full democratic process of public inclusion can take place?