Main Penang NGOs express alarm over PGCC

Main Penang NGOs express alarm over PGCC

If Patrick Lim and Equine Capital think it is going to be smooth sailing after the Prime Minister announced that approvals for the PGCC would be fast-tracked, they had better think again.

This morning, half a dozen of the main Penang NGOs came together to express their stand against the development of the PGCC at a packed press conference held at the CAP office. Also present was a cameraman (the logo on the camera said ntv7, but I am not so sure) who meticulously videotaped the proceedings. (Let’s see what comes out on ntv7 tonight. I am not holding my breath.)

Present were representatives from CAP, Penang Heritage Trust, Malaysian Nature Society, Sahabat Alam Malaysia, Cepat, and Aliran as well as other concerned Penangites.

The site of the project – the present Turf Club – was originally given by the government for a nominal sum and was zoned as ‘Open Space’. This was changed very recently to ‘Mixed Development’, even though public opinion was unanimously against it (judging from the submissions sent in by the public during the 2007 Structure Plan exercise), the NGOS said in a joint media statement.

“By doing so, the State has acted arbitrarily and sacrificed the interests of the community to a group of developers,” they said.

The NGO representatives expressed particular displeasure over the fact that the project is being steamed-rolled through and imposed from the top-down without full and open public consultation.

For once, the press raised a lot of questions after they were shown the miniature cut-out model of the site – with all 37 towers in it. The Fox people were nowhere to be seen even though they had called to ask about the press conference.

Here is the joint media statement in full:

Joint Press Release By A Group of Concerned NGOs Against The Development of Penang Global City Centre (PGCC)
15 Sept 2007

Background

The Penang Global City Centre (PGCC) is a project of Equine Capital Bhd. The project to be carried out via its associate Abad Naluri Sdn Bhd, will be developed on the current Penang Turf Club land on Jalan Scotland. The project is estimated to cost about RM25 billion. It will be sited over a 104ha-land which will incorporate technology and ecology based components and modelled along the lines of Kuala Lumpur City Centre. It is being marketed as `one of the world’s first zero-carbon cities where pollution will be kept to a minimum’.

The PGCC has been billed as the largest commercial development in Penang that will feature two five-star hotels, a performing arts centre, high-end retail outlets, two iconic towers, residential properties and a world-class meeting and convention centre. It will also promote medical tourism in the state through specialist clinics at the PGCC.

The site will also contain 33 blocks of residential units ranging between 12 floors and 53 floors. The blocks include two five-star hotels – one which is 53 stories high and another 22 stories. The total luxury residential units are 6,933 units including 100 bungalows. One of the two iconic towers will have 66 floors.

According to Equine, the project will combine 34.4ha of parkland, including 10.4ha 1km-long linear park, and about 24ha of a hill site that cannot be developed.

The project was launched by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi on 12 Sept 2007.

Our group of concerned NGOs is shocked that the PGCC has been launched even before obtaining all major planning approvals. The government should not also have granted a fast-track status for the project, seeing that the scale of the development is going to create a drastic impact on the areas of traffic, social and environment on Penang island.

Questions raised about the manner by which the land was converted from ‘Open Space’ to ‘Mixed Development’, about traffic congestion, public consultation, and provision for social housing remain unanswered.

Below are glaring issues which arise as a result of this project.

Land Rezoning

The site of the project – the present Turf Club- was originally given by the government for a nominal sum and was zoned as ‘Open Space’. This was changed very recently to ‘Mixed Development’, even though public opinion was unanimously against it (judging from the submissions sent in by the public during the 2007 Structure Plan exercise).

By doing so, the State has acted arbitrarily and sacrificed the interests of the community to a group of developers.

Traffic Congestion

The project is so large that it will affect almost every person in Penang, but there has been very little public consultation. By our estimate, it will generate about 60,000 traffic movements daily which will be channeled into Jalan Scotland and Jalan Utama (via Jalan Brook). Even now these roads are heavily congested and we worry what effect the huge additional traffic will have.

The traffic dispersal plan for the project leaves much to be desired and we are asking for another traffic study by independent experts to be done before any decisions are made.

Public Consultation

During the drawing up of the Penang Structure Plan, public consultation was minimal, perfunctory and the results were entirely ignored. Since a mega development is going to take place on the Turf Club land that is subjected to the Structure Plan, we would therefore call for a greater genuine public consultation due to the large size of this project.

The project was approved in Putrajaya, plans were finalised without any local inputs, and have now been publicly launched with much fanfare. That is not consultation. It smacks of an attempt to bulldoze aside all objections. It is a top-down planning of the worst type and is against all principles of participatory democracy.

Social Housing

It is a national policy that all development must include 30% low-cost units, and yet none will be built on the site. Instead the developer is proposing to build 6,933 luxury units of apartments and houses on the site. However, the low cost units will be built elsewhere.

We do not understand why this is so, unless the developer does not want low-income communities on this project. We urge the MPPP to withhold approval until 2,080 low cost units are included in this project, and these units must be included in every phase in the right proportion.

EIA

Given the size of the project we would also ask for a detailed EIA to be done, as a preliminary study would not be sufficient to address all the issues that will arise

Summary

We regret that the project has been launched even before the above questions have been considered and urge the MPPP to review the plans objectively and professionally and not to approve them unless the following is done:

  • greater public consultation
  • an independent traffic study
  • a detailed EIA, and most important of all
  • the full complement of low cost houses are included

Group of Concerned NGOs:

  • Consumers’ Association of Penang (CAP)
  • Sahabat Alam Malaysia (SAM)
  • Penang Heritage Trust (PHT)
  • Malaysian Nature Society (MNS)
  • Citizens For Public Transport (CEPAT)
  • Aliran Kesedaran Negara (ALIRAN)

10 COMMENTS

  1. Sad to note, the government has no consideration for the poor. Only thinks of makin money. How could the poor afford luxury apartments. Why government not concerned of low income group when making decisions…. How is the government going to solve the shortage for low cost housing.. When you want our vote you try your best to please us… when u have got what u want…. you kick us! What a shame!

     
  2. and from what we have learn in recent times, even the PM may not know the complete truth about anything, what more government officers.

    mr. govt officer, take everything with a pinch of salt. nothing is ever exactly as it seems.

     
  3. hi anil..
    did i upset u, i didn’t mean that..
    i was not really talking about this PGCC project, but i was referring to the other issues which u have been writing all this while..
    i’m actually a government officer and i know for a fact that some of the points u have been highlighting in some of ur stories especially involving the government are way off the real truth.
    it seemd that ur source of info are coming from mere hearsay..
    i don’t mean to undermine u or anything..
    just passing a thought, as u should know..
    hope to see more credible stories from u in the future..

    cheers..

     
    • you must view this broadminded. I understand why u dont agree with Anil. You are a government servant , thats why.
      If you are one of the poor facing housing crisis , you will know the pain. We the new government will make our live better but it sounds back to square one like the former government! All must stand up to speak!

       
  4. Anil, informative writings, and please keep this up.

    I grew up in Penang, lives in KL, but still has strong ties to Penang. Hence this topic is of grave interest to me.

    The NGO’s have started the ball rolling. We need more people to exert pressure if we have any chance of changing this plan. Perhaps an economics and market view may provide us with an additional strategy. For Equine to succeed (meaning making big bucks), it will have to 1st raise a lot of money, from banks, from investors. If the people of Penang make a LOT of noise objecting to this, perhaps even gathering a boycott movement that the people of Penang will not buy, lease or rent anything in PGCC (and other Equine projects), and will boycott any company that set up business in PGCC, investors and bankers may be sufficiently concerned about the viability of the project. If Equine cannot raise the money to fund this project, it will have to come to the table and listen to the public (and its potential customers)

    I believe in the power of the consumers, but the people need to stand together on this.

    Of course, I am hoping that our government is not foolish enough to pump public (our) money into funding this project. Or bail out Equine with taxpayer money. On second thought, they just might! So a threat to use the ballot box at the next general election will be an added insurance.

     
  5. the pg turf club was not bought for rm488mil. the new turf club in batu kawan costs something like that to construct. the report in the media that the land was bought for rm488mil is wrong.

    yes, the members will move out only when the new turf club is ready.

    each member was paid rm20,000 as compensation for their future expenses to the future turf club in batu kawan.

    to those who are absolutely against the project, they better get used to the idea of pgcc..because it is coming to pg to stay…in what form, however, we don’t know for sure…after all building plans can change.

    not all were in favour of moving out and of the project.
    but the majority voted in favour of moving out… in this sense it was a democratic decision.

    no, the ngos won’t win…there is someone who can stop the project, but he isn’t going to do anything about it…

    so we better resign ourselves to accepting the inevitable….

     
  6. Apart from official sources, which I take with a pinch of salt, I get information from a combination of different sources, most of them very reliable. You don’t see the 37 towers mentioned in the mainstream media, do you? You don’t see the rezoning of the land from “open space” to “mixed development” mentioned either.

     
  7. hi anil,
    seen quite a lot of your writings and report..
    all are quite good issues.
    this makes me wonder what are your sources and are they reliable ones.
    did u ever tried to verify or confirm all the facts which you had been writing?
    this is because many of the facts in your reports are based on newspaper reports or from the blogs.
    Don’t you know that m’sian media are never transparent and not really report the truths? You of all people should know better, i guess.
    where do all your belief lead you to?
    your belief will be nothing if whatever reports you have been writing this while are based on wrong facts.

    cheers.

     
  8. Five NGOs up in arms.
    The NGOs will be reduced into pulp. He is the most powerful businessman alive now. No argument here.
    There were others, but he outshines them all-past and present.

    Why did the Penang Turf Club members agree to move out? If they did not vote in favour to move out in 2002 and for the compensation in the form of future travelling expenses to the new turf club, it would have been a different ball game.

    Who betrayed them?

     

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