Draft Penang Structure Plan 2030: Official feedback session cut short after barrage of questions

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A planned three-hour official session yesterday morning at Komtar to solicit feedback on the draft Penang Structure Plan 2030 from civil society was cut short to half that duration after relentless questioning by activists.

About the only thing that turned out well was the fried bee hoon served for breakfast before the session began at just after 9am.

The session was chaired by the director of the planning department with the external consultant also present.

After an introduction into the process of publicising the plan and soliciting feedback for the draft Structure Plan, which serves as the legally enforceable planning document for the state, and a short film, the session was open to the floor at about 9.30am.

Among the key issues raised by the activists:

The prohibition on hill-site development remained – with what looked like a crucial difference. Previously, development was prohibited on sites located more than 76m about sea level and/or on slopes greater than 25 degrees in gradient. But now, in the latest draft structure plan, the words “and or” (“dan atau”) had been changed to just “and” (“dan”).

The NGO reps felt that this narrowed the prohibition to only sites which fulfilled both these two criteria ie higher than 76m about sea level and steeper than 25 degrees gradient. What if the site was higher than 76m above sea level but less than 25 degrees in gradient? Would development on such sites be allowed? The government planners felt this was just a matter of semantics and differing interpretation. But the activists were suspicious and wary: they felt this was important as the courts would look into the precise wording in the structure plan if there was a dispute.

The loophole for so-called “special projects” remained in the plan. This presumably still allows all kinds of crazy ‘public infrastructure’ on sites higher than 76 metres above sea level.

Another major point was that the structure plan projected that the Penang population would rise to 2.450m by 2030, up from 1.645m in 2014. That’s a 50% increase!

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This looks inflated for several reasons:

  • The state is trying to move away from a labour-intensive economy to “Industry 4.0” and a knowledge economy.
  • Net inward migration averaged less than 10,000 per year over the last 20 years.
  • The total fertility rate has dropped well below the population replacement rate of 2.1 children per couple.
  • The Department of Statistics, the experts on population projections, have forecast that Penang will have a population of only 1.983m in 2030, just a 12% increase from the present 1.767m estimate for 2018.

So the Penang Structure Plan’s forecasted population for 2030 has exceeded by 24% the Department of Statistics projection for 2030 ie by almost half a million people!

Now, this is crucial. Why would the Penang Structure Plan do that?

Well, for one thing, how else to justify the massive land reclamation projected in the draft structure plan? They are planning a whopping 7,854 acres (3,178ha) of land reclamation by 2030. That includes the 4,500 acres from the three islands down south and more reclamation on the mainland.

[In contrast, highly populated and dense Hong Kong is planning just one 1,700ha artificial island, half of what is proposed in Penang. Even so, the Hong Kong population is expected to peak at 8.2m in 2043 before declining to 7.7m by 2066. Already there are serious concerns in Hong Kong about the proposed island being vulnerable to climate change. While the artificial island off Hong Kong could be built to handle massive storms, the size of the waves would be unpredictable. Just ask the hotel in George Town, which already has had waves spill over and flood its premises a couple of times.]

The proposed reclamation in pale yellow

In any case, why would we need so much land reclamation in Penang when the population is only increasing ever so slightly? [By the way, Penang state has a bigger land mass than Singapore but it has only one third of the Singapore population.]

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A nature activist expressed concern that the land reclamation on the mainland covers the only public beach in Butterworth as well as an environmentally sensitive coastal stretch.

Another activist asked why they are showing the three proposed artificial islands off the southern coast of Penang Island in the structure plan when approvals have not yet been given. What about how those islands are going to damage fishing grounds and food security for the state? And why are they creating artificial islands instead of just extending the coastline? (Presumably because the developers want to maximise sea-view condos, never mind the siltation problem those islands create.)

Why not rectify the imbalance with the mainland instead of focusing most of the ‘development’ in Penang?

Why is the structure plan talking about just climate mitigation when it should be based on a platform of building climate resilience to meet the serious challenges ahead?

What would happen if there is a drought? About three quarters of Penang water supply goes to servicing the needs of agriculture, most of it rice cultivation, in the state. Shouldn’t we be looking at maximising rice yield per unit of water used?

Vegetable farming on hill land too needs a policy statement following the loss of vegetable farm land in the lowlands (at Thean Teik and Relau for example).

Someone raised the question as to why the Structure Plan did not clearly specify the permissible densities for property development in the state. The previous Structure Plan ending 2020 had specified densities of 15 homes per acre for secondary corridors, 30 homes per acre for primary corridors and 87 homes per acre for areas under transit-oriented development (eg near rail corridors). Unfortunately, many times, the maximum densities of 87 homes per acres or even more were allowed even though there was no such transit-oriented development in the area. Activists lamented the disappearance of traditional villages and kampungs in Penang to make way for higher-end highrise property development. What can be done to protect the remaining established villages?

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At yesterday’s session, most of the time, the planners and the consultant simply could not answer the questions raised, bertubi-tubi (relentlessly). Instead, the standard response was, make sure you “isikan borang maklumbalas yang disediakan” (fill up the feedback forms). As one of the participants observed, it was more of a Q & (no) A session.

After about one hour and 15 minutes of questioning, the organisers obviously had enough. It was only 10.40am but they decided to cut short the session that was supposed to end at noon.

I had no chance to ask where they are going to find the 300,000 inhabitants for the three new islands they are planning, especially when most of the homes will be high-end housing. And why is the structure plan allowing so much high-end housing when there is a serious property overhang now? Why are they planning to build so many more homes, and reclaiming so much land when the population is only growing marginally?

A few days ago, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change announced that governments must do all they can to reduce carbon emissions by 2030 if we are to have any hope of limiting the rise in global warming to 1.5C. One way is to push for more and better public transport. But over here, they want to insert in the structure plan the monster Pan Island Link highway, which has not yet been approved, and all other proposed highways under the SRS proposal, which will worsen emissions.

Cleaner, greener Penang?

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Jonas
Jonas
12 Oct 2018 2.20pm

Where is the “smart” Minister of Energy, Technology, Science, Climate Change and Environment, YB Yeo Bee Yin and what she or her Ministry has to say regarding this. Hope they give their input and feedback as to what is expected and as PH likes to say all the time “”kami mendengar suara rakyat”! The rakyat have spoken and all I can say the “super” Yeo Bee Yin has gone into a shell…can neither see nor hear her these days ;-)…when we have extreme weather patterns and destruction here in Malaysia not to mention more severe destruction in our neighbouring country… Read more »

Shriek
Shriek
12 Oct 2018 6.32pm
Reply to  Jonas

Can you stop driving and walk, run skate board instead? Everyone in pg land wants to drive, burn and heat up the globe result in rise in co2 and global warming. How many millions in pg not heeding the call

Shriek
Shriek
13 Oct 2018 7.23pm
Reply to  Jonas

Pg lang should stop using cars. Walk, run or bike in everyday life. What a spin and irrelevant. What has reclaim from sea or hill has to do with climate change? Otherwise go and kau beh with singland, hongland, japland, chinland for they have reclaiming the sea

Shriek
Shriek
15 Oct 2018 7.10pm
Reply to  Jonas

With structure plan with reclamation and building roads do with climate change? Otherwise go and protest against sing land with massive land reclamation and building roads to zig zag the island. Why Sing land with PhDs and experts any times more than pg forum does not protest johor with its forest hill project can stop honor. But there is no proof. What about Kedah and Malacca? Reclaim massive reclamation. Climate change minister orso take action?

Tan Wee Theng
Tan Wee Theng
12 Oct 2018 12.37pm

I think we should constantly remind politicians that they wont get votes by building highways but will win votes only by providing public amenities and taking care of public well-being, public transport included. Despite their political acumen, our politicians most often got carried away and influenced by vested interests….

Song
Song
12 Oct 2018 6.22pm
Reply to  Tan Wee Theng

‘…by providing public amenities’ – but resident-desired Bayan Baru library is not in structure plan?

Roger
Roger
15 Oct 2018 2.56pm
Reply to  Song

Outstanding matter for Sim.

Shriek
Shriek
12 Oct 2018 6.37pm
Reply to  Tan Wee Theng

People buy cars and orso road tax. Road tax are paid to central gomen are meant for roads. Go and complain to macc if gomen misuse the road tax. Other well being are covered by other taxes like our income tax

Kyen
12 Oct 2018 1.48pm

Isi borang but then all those borang masuk black holes. Never seen again. Just like Selangor. Wayang.

Song
Song
15 Oct 2018 8.42am

GEORGE TOWN, Oct 15 — The Penang Island City Council (MBPP) is rolling out plans to beautify and expand pedestrian walkways around the Komtar vicinity as part of the business improvement district scheme (BIDS).

MBPP Mayor Datuk Yew Tung Seang said this is among the city council’s plans to make the city more pedestrian-friendly with the involvement of stakeholders in the area.

The first project, named Baby BIDS, will be rolled out in the city centre’s Magazine Circus.

https://www.malaymail.com/s/1682851/the-baby-steps-of-making-george-town-pedestrian-friendly-through-bids

Alex B
Alex B
15 Oct 2018 1.50pm
Reply to  Song

Need covered walkways around residential area to bus stops.

Can benchmark how Singapore built 200km worth of sheltered walkways in the past 5 years under the Land Transport Authority’s (LTA) Walk2Ride Programme.

https://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/singapore/sheltered-walkways-lta-completes-construction-10724514

tunglang
tunglang
15 Oct 2018 8.39am

‘Redefine affordable homes’ https://malaysia.yahoo.com/news/apos-redefine-affordable-homes-apos-000300057.html THE National House Buyers Association (HBA) has demanded that housing developers rewrite their definition of “affordable houses”. They want the Real Estate and Housing Developers Association (Rehda) to redefine and scale down the maximum pricing for the homes to between RM150,000 and RM300,000 (for Kuala Lumpur) per unit of such homes. These rates, honorary secretary-general (HBA) Chang Kim Loong said, covered affordable homes with a minimum 800sq ft and at least two bedrooms. Anything higher than that, he said, would be “outright unrealistic” and “way beyond the reach of a majority of potential house buyers”. He… Read more »

Shriek
Shriek
15 Oct 2018 7.12pm
Reply to  tunglang

Ah pek you want more land for affordable homes? No problem, clear more land? Where?

Song
Song
14 Oct 2018 10.41am

BALIK PULAU: The contractor of the 600m elevated road project linking Jalan Bukit Kukus to Jalan Tun Sardon here has been issued with a stop-work order.

The order came following a mishap on the site where 14 concrete beams measuring 25m each fell onto a slope in Jalan Tun Sardon on Thursday.

Eleven beams broke apart in the 8.30pm incident. However, no injuries were reported.

https://www.thestar.com.my/news/nation/2018/10/14/stop-work-road-contractor-told-dosh-to-look-at-work-sites-procedures-after-mishap/#eRgCeFYPQIklJ48d.99

Amy
Amy
13 Oct 2018 10.55am

Any happening on Penang food or not?

Lazlo
Lazlo
14 Oct 2018 1.53pm
Reply to  Anil Netto

Anil already no appetite for food?
Blame it on Penang Forum?

Song
Song
14 Oct 2018 8.32am
Reply to  Amy

Amy, stick to the tried and tested:
22 STREET FOOD MUST EAT IN PENANG
http://www.taufulou.com/22-street-food-must-eat-in-penang/

Unless tunglang has duscovered something new.

tunglang
tunglang
14 Oct 2018 6.17pm
Reply to  Song

May I add one (more) must eat street hawker cuisine in Penang before one dies anywhere else: Singapore Bee Hoon @ Jalan Dato Keramat in front of Pg Stadium. It’s a roadside stall of 2nd generation Ori-Maestro (Mamak) in front of an Indian vegetarian restaurant (of very yummy Tosai), a few doors before 7-Eleven & Petron (if you are coming from Dato Keramat Padang). Even a KLite came here to order 50 packets of this truly mouth-watering heavenly Bee Hoon to take back to KL on the same night! Singapore Bee Hoon is a wet fried cuisine consisting of shredded… Read more »

Wei
Wei
15 Oct 2018 11.43am
Reply to  tunglang

no wonder the traffic in Penang is so bad…we should not allow outsider to come over just for some bee hoon…they should be banned…

Shriek
Shriek
17 Oct 2018 8.00pm
Reply to  Wei

You saying durians grow in peng land must be consumed by peng lang and not outsiders?

Shriek
Shriek
15 Oct 2018 7.18pm
Reply to  tunglang

See pg is losing many talents? Kau beh kau bu and did nothing to reverse the trend. Only thing retire, buy a condo in pg otherwise bye bye. Expect him to stay in Wong fei Hoong HSE when you stay in a condo?

James K
James K
12 Oct 2018 11.30pm

What is the yellow island north of 1st bridge?is that the middle bank?

tunglang
tunglang
12 Oct 2018 7.00am

Simply put: Property Play by Developers Associated Party.
If not, nothing to show in state development portfolio ala political boasting – Penang will be the shining example of insane development for the whole of Malaysia!
Absolut Vodka for Penang Structure Plan.
Btw, where is the still missing Penang Local Plan? Where is it, Niao Kong???

Song
Song
13 Oct 2018 7.52pm
Reply to  tunglang

Have you visited StarProperty.my Fair 2018 at Queensbay Mall?

tunglang
tunglang
13 Oct 2018 9.39pm
Reply to  Song

The last I visited was more than 10 yrs ago & that was overseeing my client’s sales booth setting @ PISA. Where got money to invest in properties?

Heng GS
Heng GS
14 Oct 2018 7.20am
Reply to  tunglang

Buy The Star fill up coupon get a lucky spin but the prizes not attractive (mineral water or indomie noodles) so I save up money for a cup of kopio. Star Wong CW better get good sponsors for lucky draw prizes.

tunglang
tunglang
14 Oct 2018 12.01pm
Reply to  Heng GS

Who wants to sponsor such event when knowing the property bubble is going to burst anytime? Better ROI from sponsoring Penang Festival.
Property gurus, why so quiet?

Lazlo
Lazlo
14 Oct 2018 1.52pm
Reply to  tunglang

I prefer OctoberFest which the malays wrongfully identify as Pesta Arak. Which Penang venue hosting the best OctoberFest?

Song
Song
14 Oct 2018 2.47pm
Reply to  tunglang

Property value in Penang is expected to appreciate as the Penang Transportation Master Plan can now be executed with ease to benefit the sector.

Rehda, Penang chairman Datuk Toh Chin Leong said in May 2018 as Pakatan Harapan now helmed the government in Putrajaya, the state government could collaborate with the federal government to fund infrastructure projects such as the expansion of the airport and the light rail transit (LRT).

https://www.thestar.com.my/business/business-news/2018/05/14/developers-bullish-on-penang-property-sector/#Xuhu1DadFfhg8pbB.99

Shriek
Shriek
17 Oct 2018 8.02pm
Reply to  Anil Netto

NIMBY? Then how to find land for all these utilities?

shriek
shriek
19 Oct 2018 9.36pm
Reply to  tunglang

Ah pek has been talking since young but himself buy condo. Bubble burst when there is a recession. Vultures are hoping for the carcus. Time to make more money

Shriek
Shriek
14 Oct 2018 11.18am
Reply to  tunglang

If have £¥€$ will sing different tune. In western movies, have gun to travel. Today have money to travel. Now pok kai, no money to travel??

Lazlo
Lazlo
14 Oct 2018 1.51pm
Reply to  tunglang

You must have invested 10 years ago in a Penang property, so now no worry with appreciated value except possibly the new capital gain tax soon.

Wei
Wei
15 Oct 2018 11.37am
Reply to  tunglang

wow..so concern about about environment yet invest in property…what a hypocrite

Alex B
Alex B
15 Oct 2018 1.45pm
Reply to  tunglang

According to the National Property Information Centre, Penang had the highest number of overhang units in Malaysia last year with 4,903 units.

A study on property overhang carried out by the State Housing, Town and Country Planning, and Local Government Committee showed that out of the 4,903 overhang units, 2,600 were properties priced above RM500,000.

Real Estate and Housing Developers Association Penang branch chairman Toh Chin Leong, however, said property overhang was not a worrying sign as it could be due to the state’s soft property market over the last few years.

tunglang
tunglang
14 Oct 2018 12.27pm
Reply to  Song

7 yrs ago, I could still recall property gurus busy selling property agent (full time, part time) as the career of the new decades in near fully packed hotel conference / convention halls in the same vein as evangelical direct selling preachings. And I heard of developer marketers & agents promoting ‘bulk purchase’ of well-reserved units (by interest group of investors) as the way forward to reap massive returns from secondary / sub-sales of properties. Also at the same timing, were the euphoric & kia-su days of Penang Serengeti Property Stampedes of wildebeests, elephants, buffalos, lions, cheetahs, hyenas & crying-tears-crocodiles… Read more »

Engineer
Engineer
13 Oct 2018 9.41am

Why the powers to be do not bother to think about the future? Robo-taxis are coming to the road very soon. It sounds crazy now but once it’s starts to roll out to the masses in developed countries, it’s going to come here, I dare say within a decade. Local brains and companies here should think how they can take advantage of this development. Then everyone will start to realize owning a car isn’t a necessity and all the highways and elevated MRT lines are really silly ideas!

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-07-03/gm-said-to-put-pieces-in-place-for-robo-taxis-in-san-francisco

https://www.forbes.com/sites/salvatorebabones/2018/04/22/robo-taxis-are-the-future-of-transportation-and-chinas-didi-is-racing-to-get-there-first/#5fa2507c320f

Swee
Swee
13 Oct 2018 2.52pm
Reply to  Engineer

I doubt deployment in chaotic city traffic like Penang in a decade. The AI has to be specially learn to deal with lawless Penang motorist.