All Penangites should look out for the draft Penang Local Plan when it is displayed before long and make their voices heard.
The Local Plan will eventually govern the use of land in the state and determine what kind of development is allowed in your neighbourhood. The Plan is almost ready now though it may be slightly delayed, from what I hear.
Penangites – especially residents associations – must ask their State Assembly members and city councillors to brief them about the Plan once it is released. Residents associations must use magnifying glasses to thoroughly pore over the Plan for their respective areas. Don’t let them slip anything past you.
The public also needs to demand an extension in the duration of time that the Plan is publicly displayed to allow more time for study, briefings and feedback. Usually, the plans are displayed for a month – but more time is required.
The draft Local Plan is massive, complex and detailed with lots of maps. We should ask for translations of the Plan to be provided so that all segments of the public can digest its contest, participate in informed discussions and provide intelligent feedback.
There should be briefings and consultation about the Local Plan at many levels, so that we can truly adopt a participatory approach to planning and land use.
In the past, few people participated in the Structure Plan (which sets out the planning vision) and the Local Plan (which sets out the detailed land use and planning) – perhaps because they felt it was pointless as their views would go unheeded anyway.
But after the 8 March political tsunami and People Power/Makkal Sakthi, more people now realise the importance of being engaged in the planning process. We cannot leave it to the politicians alone. We must make our views heard at this stage. Once they start piling work for a highrise building at your doorstep, chances are it would be too late to do anything.
In connection with this, a battle is also looming over the Penang Turf Club land to ensure that if the racecourse is relocated, the Batu Gantung land is converted to a People’s Park rather than extensive property development. The draft Local Plan might not be in favour of a public park, so the people of Penang should speak up and make their voices heard if they want the area turned into a People’s Park.