I have not really bothered with the draft Penang Structure Plan 2030 ever since the briefing to the public was cut short on 11 October 2018 when the panel members were unable to provide more than cursory answers to the probing questions raised by the public.
I didn’t have a chance to raise any questions or objections at that hearing as it was abruptly cut short. That was another clear indication to me that the process was just a farce and the state was not serious about really engaging with the public. No matter how many serious objections were made, the outcome to me was always going to be a foregone conclusion.
To me, the revision to the Penang Structure Plan 2020, gazetted in 2007, was merely to accommodate higher zoning density, massive land reclamation and the RM46bn worth of transport infrastructure – ie the land reclamation and property development plan also known as “PTMP”, which on the surface is supposed to be a “transport masterplan”.
So I personally didn’t bother submitting any written objections to the revised draft Penang Structure Plan 2030. Why waste my time adding legitimacy to the process (though I take nothing away from those in Penang Forum who put in considerable time and effort to come up with some excellent well-researched objections to the revised plan). I mean the state knows all about our concerns and objections eg the inflated population projections and elevated LRT ridership projections (42 million a year), to name a couple. It is not as if they don’t know.
But they are determined to steamroll ahead with massive land reclamation to raise funds to finance expensive and inappropriate transport infrastructure – despite the much cheaper sustainable mobility options as outlined in the Halcrow transport masterplan, which the state government had originally commissioned.
And so it did not come as any surprise when the draft Penang Structure Plan 2030 was conditionally approved by the state government despite 533 objections, on reclamation issues (133), “PTMP” (107), agriculture land (93), population projection (39), forest land (27), highland development (21) and others (113).
It is business as usual for the Penang state government in this era of climate change when we really need to be concerned about the ecological balance. Obviously the so-called “Penang Green Agenda” doesn’t include such elephant-in-the-room concerns.
Now we wait and see if the National Physical Planning Council and the Department of the Environment will go along with this.
This is a report from Malaysiakini:
Activists deem public hearings on Penang Structure Plan a ‘total farce’
20 Mar 2019, 4:42 pm (Updated 20 Mar 2019, 5:14 pm)
Activists today expressed their outrage over the conditional approval of the Penang Structure Plan (PSP) 2030 to include several megaprojects.
Consumers Association of Penang’s Meena Raman said that despite civil society organisations registering objections to these projects at public hearings organised by the state government, their views were not taken into account.
“Obviously, the state government did not listen. They have not taken into account whatever we said during our meetings and public hearings, where we clearly stated our views and objections to the projects,” she told Malaysiakini.
“The process of public hearing which the state government embarked on was merely a formality required by law, but in reality, it was just a rubber stamp to support their warped vision of Penang.
“It seems now the public hearings were just a legal formality, they did not take our views seriously, and it is a total farce.”
Meena was responding to Penang Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow’s announcement yesterday that the PSP2030 had been approved with conditions.
These conditions include keeping the proposals for the Penang Transport Master Plan (PTMP) and the Penang South Reclamation (PSR), which involves three artificial islands in Bayan Lepas.
Chow also said that public hearings on the plan were organised five times in February and March, and involved 69 people covering all categories.
‘Caving in to developers’
Meena said that by accepting and approving the PSP2030 with such conditions, Penang has an agenda to prioritise developers’ interests.
She added that the NGOs against the plan will attempt to lodge an appeal at the National Physical Planning Council (MPFN), despite there being no avenue to do so.
“We will bring to their attention that the state has ignored and refused to acknowledge our objections.
“The state cannot write us off just like that. There seems to be no accountability in doing this. It seems the draft plan was amended just to include the megaprojects.
“It’s done in a topsy turvy manner, without justification. They have caved in to the developers. The PSP is the developers’ plan, not the people’s,” she stressed.
All states are to come up with a 10-year structure plan, which is renewable every five years.
While the last gazetted plan for Penang was in 2007, PSP2020 did not take off on schedule – with the delay due to the inclusion of Special Area Plans for George Town and Penang Hill.
‘Omits public engagement’
Penang Forum’s Khoo Salma Nasution, meanwhile, termed the PSP2030, prepared under the Town and Country Planning Act 1976, as “problematic.”
Khoo Salma noted that the PTMP and PSR projects were tabled to the MPFN back in 2016.
“Two years onward, there is no sign of approval from MPFN due to the developers’ inability to comply with technical and financial regulations.
“Not to mention that the public has consistently objected to both projects,” she told Malaysiakini.
Salma asked if the state government is now attempting to repackage PSP2030, PTMP and PSR to be put forward again to the same council.
“Was the initial intention back in 2016 to push for these projects to get approval from MPFN that supersedes the current PSP2020?” she asked.
“This clearly omits the legislative requirement for public engagement on both PSP and PTMP projects, as the current PSP2030 does not have a provision for both projects in its development planning zoning.
“Or is this a move to bring the PSP2030 forward to get a blanket approval to endorse the PTMP and PSR, which until now has yet to receive approval by the same council?”