‘Setbacks’ for new high-rise buildings in Penang slashed (updated)


Update: A journalist informs me that the setbacks for a few established housing areas (kawasan perumahan tetap sedia ada) and areas with 87 units/acre will have their setbacks increased to 20 metres (66 feet). This may cover only a small number of projects and have the effect of limiting high-density projects in exclusive areas like Jesselton. But what about other places and other high density projects (say 30-87 units/acre)? I do hope the State Planning Committee will clarify.

Originally published on 22 October 2012:

In a move that raises even more concern about high-rise development, it has emerged that the setbacks for highrise buildings have been slashed.

A high-end high-rise condo project sprouts from the ground, very close to the boundary wall of a neighbouring lot on mainland Penang.

Previously, the mandatory setbacks (vacant space) ranged from 10 to 50 feet from the lot boundaries depending on how high the proposed buildings are (though the variation in the setbacks was not in proportion to the number of storeys). These are for buildings that are four storeys and above.

But it has been made known to representatives of Penang Forum that the State Planning Committee has recently reduced the variable setbacks to a fixed setback of 20 feet for all heights. In effect, what this means is that the setback for high-rise buildings has been slashed from 50 feet to 20 feet.

No publicity has been given to this change of policy.

Penang Forum reps are in the dark as to the rationale for the reduction of the setback. It will no doubt add to concerns about high-density high-rise projects in Penang.

The reduction in setback is a major concession to developers, even though it is unlikely to result in lower property prices or more affordable housing. For neighbouring residents, however, the reduced setback will add to the stress and alarming visual impact of these high-rise properties.

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not enough to move teeny weeny boundaries. All hill slope developments should be curbed. (A certain company) planning another hilll slope porject up above the current alila at tanjong bungah-should never even be allowed!! dangerous and no extra traffic planning in place on the winding mount erskine road that leads to this proposed site-disasterous!!

king kong

Penang looks more like HK than Sinkapore with mountainous and rocky hills than Sinkapore. What do one see in Bkt Merah, Timah and Badok. Where are the hills? In HK, all the high rise residential buildings are the same – star shaped to avoid shaking hands with your neighbours. The (sewer) pipes are placed outside to make more room inside. Lucky for Penang, one does not have the mid-Terrace where new high rises are built among the existing older high rise. How did Hongkies drag their building materials up thhe mid-Terrace into the new developemnt in the midst of existing… Read more »


Building setbacks are an important part of the environmental livability in urban areas. Singapore actually has a much higher population density than Penang Island. However, those who have wandered around Singapore will realise that other than the old city centre, most residential areas don’t “feel” crowded.
That’s because a lot of attention has been paid to ensure significant open space between dense high-rise apartments that most of their people live in.


People power – or money rules? http://aliran.com/10495.html Vested interests There appears to be greater the hope of winning if the candidate is sponsored by big industrial corporations who will not sponsor without an ulterior motive. So when the candidate we vote for wins we may think it is victory for us but the real winner is the big sponsor. Within one month (August), Obama received US$10m (The Star, 9 September 2012) to boost his election campaign. One wonders what conditions were attached to those dollars! In Malaysia we have repeatedly witnessed the government and its ministers and for that matter… Read more »

Sathindren Santhirathelagan

Sorry if this is a bit out of topic but this seems to share a common platform so please bear with me; Flip Flops Everywhere Much has been said about the competence, accountability and transparency of the Penang government and depending which side of the political divide one professes to be from, colourful comments would be certainly forthcoming. The Penang government professes to follow these tenets diligently and goes so far as to make light of flip-flop decisions by their political adversaries claiming they are beyond such shenanigans. However a recent situation gives one the opportunity to demonstrate that the… Read more »

Gerakan K

There are bigger problems than yours in LGE administration if you have access to complaints filed in ADUNs service centers. That is why people who aware of real things in Penang and other pakatan states will laugh at everyone praising the CAT or achievement by pakatan administrators. My prediction is that BN will win BIG at states currently controlled pakatan. Rhetorical talk alone will not win you everything because your real report card score nothing !!!

Gerakan K

I always wonder why Alvin Tan and co. providing FREE SHOWS to public via internet. Now I know the reason. They just want to mention … name after obtaining the publicity. Do you believe who is their sponsor ???

Ha ha ha ha, you got it. Finally the so-called angel now doing the dirty thing behind the scene.


Its an example of a pornstar, adulterer … President who set such a bad an immoral example. Lets get rid of this immorality before it affects our children, people and country.

Andrew I

Ya, if what you suggest is true, then you must be pretty stupid to take such a long time to figure it out. Ha ha, stupid Gherks.

Gerakan K

LGE administration is plain stupid. We must vote DAP out of Penang !!! LGE’s money money money money principles are considered harmful to Penang and all Penangites !!!

p/s: If you don’t know what are LGE’s money money money money principles, then rewatch CSL-LGE debate.

malcolm swalk

I am a building professional. This proposed revision will impact on the quality of spaces. If true as reported, you can have a twenty- or thirty-storey block next to another similar building, and the space between them need only be 40′! This is less than the length of a badminton court [44′]! This is ridiculous. It will result in claustrophobic spaces, canyons of concrete, lack of natural light on the ground. wind tunnels. This will make for a psychotic populace because there are psychological, aesthetic and environmental drawbacks. It is ironic that as Georgetown begins to benefit from its heritage… Read more »


“This move is intended to benefit the developer, as he can now cram in the same number of units and all necessary requirements into a slightly lower building, saving him costs.”
Provided the developer is building slightly bigger units (from the extra space gain) to sell at higher price to justify ‘bigger’ space = higher price. Never mind the lower ceiling unless you are Goliath!

Sustainable development

I am a town planner with more than 30 years experience. I fully agree with Malcolm. If this change in the setback guidelines is true there are a number of issues that the authorities must answer. Firstly, the State Planning Committee is stepping into the role of the local planning authority. I believe the SPC should not be directing the MPPP on such matters as relaxing building setbacks as such guidelines have a big impact on the identity and character of the city. If the SPC has specific concerns, then it should direct the MPPP to study these matters, carry… Read more »


Penang is in the peripheral zone of the Ring of Fire (volcanic active zone). Any substantial volcanic activity, land or under sea with enough ‘shake’ power to bring down buildings will not guarantee a bypass of Penang.
Traditional safety practice of 50ft buffer space around buildings not more than 14 storey high is a safe bet in the event of a hellish earthquake than what is now a questionable ‘short’ change of safety.
High price of land to maximize use is no excuse.

Time to open more funeral parlors & sell more earthquake-proof beds or parachutes.

Andrew I

Breaking news: Alvin Tan points finger to CSL and gives him a salute.



It is not the eye-sore it will create or the stress to neighbours that worry me but the danger posed should there be a disaster or a mishap. There will no longer be a buffer zone from the building to the road and to other houses. And I have said a million times that increasing the density or plot ratio cannot reduce house prices. Developers are out to make a killing. They want maximum profit. If you give them higher density they will just sell more units at the same price as before and make more money because buyers here… Read more »

Gerakan K

LGE as CM of Penang talk talk talk and talk everyday. Pointing his finger to everyone. When anything wrong / unusual happen in Penang then his finger as usual will point to everyone except DAP, PAKATAN OR HIMSELF !!!

LGE only good at giving you rhetorical talking. Now LGE answer me why the so-called ‘setback’ being slashed ???

p/s: And yes, I agree with tunglang assessment: “No man can get rich in politics unless he’s a crook! “.


… The richest man in Malaysia who reap off the jungle or the 10 millions wedding dinner or the 1 billions submarine deal or the 40 millions donations or the miliion of commission in the bank negara new notes deal or the billions summons monies to be collected by 2 cronies in the cctv deals. The list is not just much longer, its never ending until we get rid of these sycophants of corupteurs … and cheaters.

What is LGE honest set back or slashed compared to the corrupt billions that were set back into their pockets.


For a 50ft setback reduced to 20ft, this translates to 2 extra units x number of floors x 2 (left & right ends of a building). Example for a 36-floor building, it ‘rewards’ developers an extra of 144 (yat sei sei) units to profit exceedingly at no reduction of price. For a Peeping Tom with trapeze skills, he will definitely be delighted at this shorten-change of space barrier to his part-time passion! Just 40ft of space is no fear factor to him armed with an extendable pole. In the future, demolition of such close proximity of buildings to make way… Read more »