The Penang government has begun a review of the Penang Structure Plan 2020 five years after it was gazetted in 2007. But what is happening to the draft Local Plan?
By law, the Penang Structure Plan has to be reexamined every five years.
But what about the draft Penang Island Local Plan (a very detailed local plan), which was approved by the MPPP in 2008? By law, the Council should have put it on display for comments from the public. But this was not done. Instead, the draft Local Plan was held back by the State Planning Committee.
The reason given is that ‘they’ want to complete the Special Area Plan (SAP) for the heritage zone, etc before moving on to the Local Plan to make sure there is no conflict between the two. But the Local Plan has been held back for five years now. Who benefits from the delay in putting in place a Local Plan? The residents of Penang? The MPPP? Or the developers? No prizes for guessing.
The latest position is that the amended SAP has to be submitted to Unesco by February 2013. But how long will Unesco take to approve the SAP?
And in the meantime what is going to happen to the draft Local Plan? This was what Penang Forum reps wanted to know when they met the president of the MPPP and her colleagues recently. The delay in enforcing a Local Plan has given rise to a lot of arbitrary decisions on what sort of projects can be allowed in various neighbourhoods. A Local Plan, on the other hand, would specify what sort of density and type of project would be allowed in any given area, thus removing any uncertainty.
Hopefully, the review of the Penang Structure Plan will go hand in hand with a review of the Local Plan and will not be used to legitimise existing applications for high density projects without the basic supporting infrastructure.