Why are vested corporate interests influencing Penang’s urban planning?

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Photograph: The Malaysian Insider

Today an important meeting in Penang was held, away from the public eye, to discuss a revised Local Plan for Penang Island.

The meeting was a “Bengkel Penyelarasan Kajian Semula Draf Rancangan Tempatan Pulau Pinang (PULAU) 2020 (DRT)” (Workshop to review and streamline the draft Penang Island Local Plan). This was especially to incorporate the Penang transport masterplan and Gurney reclamation into the draft local plan.

Among those present were officers from the MBPP, the Town and Country Planning Department, local plan external drafting consultants, and Penang Heritage Trust.

Disquietingly enough, also present were half a dozen representatives from the Gamuda-led SRS Consortium, the selected project delivery partner for the Penang transport masterplan.

The meeting was said to be “confidential” because they were going to discuss the transport masterplan with SRS.

SRS is only the selected project delivery partner, and their plans are only part of the Penang transport masterplan. (The earlier Halcrow report should be the accepted masterplan as the state adopted it as its blueprint for transport.) No agreement has been signed yet between the state government and SRS. But that did not stop the SRS folks from putting forward their wish list for the local plan. What standing do they have?

Meanwhile, other Penang Transport Council members (like me) were not invited. Neither were Penang Forum reps. Several MBPP councillors were also not told about this meeting.

Among other issues, I hear the meeting today discussed:

  • the inclusion of the Penang transport masterplan infrastructure into the local plan
  • the inclusion of the three new islands to be reclaimed off the south coast into the local plan
  • the land use for these three islands
  • transit zones for the LRT
  • building height limits
  • the 250-feet and 25-degree gradient thresholds for hill-slope property development
  • Sia Boey as a controversial transport hub
  • a tropical island resort on Pulau Jerejak
  • Pulau Rimau to be made a possible tourism site (SRS is believed to be trying to get this island out of the aquaculture zone.)
  • the fate of fishing villages
  • higher density for property development around LRT stations. There is a push for the higher density to to be extended to a 400m radius from LRT stations instead of the 250m originally suggested.
  • 21 kampungs or living quarters on the island are likely to be redeveloped; only eight likely to be preserved.
  • the fate of the cross-channel cable cars – a guessing game. Some seem unaware that the federal government has rejected the plan, possibly due to the alignment of the route and the interference the pylons would cause to shipping. Nonetheless, the state apparently wants to slip the cable cars into the local plan as a “suggestion”. Meanwhile, an EIA on the cable cars is underway. (There was no mention of the proposed Penang Hill cable cars project that was slipped into the Penang Hill plan despite consultants’ and review panel objections.)

Are state agencies being too receptive or amenable to whatever is being proposed by SRS? Why is SRS being given considerable leeway?

Background

The hurried Local Plan meeting today was held ahead of a Penang Transport Council meeting tomorrow. At the last council meeting, Penang Forum reps had pointed out that the land reclamation and transport masterplan should be subject to the local plan (still not gazetted despite having been approved in 2008). Obviously, this hadn’t been taken into account earlier.

But the Penang Island Local Plan also cannot be inconsistent with the Penang Structure Plan. Since the review of the structure plan has not yet been completed, the local plan must follow the existing structure plan, which was gazetted in 2007.

Legally, the local plan can be challenged if it doesn’t follow the structure plan in force. But the state is expected to amend the existing structure plan, presently under revision, to fit a revamped local plan – as the local plan previously approved in 2007 and 2008 (but not yet gazetted) has been so mutilated.

Upon the structure plan being revised, the state will have to display the draft revised structure plan publicly and get comments and then gazette the structure plan. The local plan will then follow suit and be displayed to the public. The MBPP will then examine the local plan to see that it conforms to the revised structure plan. If not, the council will have to reject the whole local plan .

The exhibition and public display of the structure plan will take a few more months. They will then have to exhibit the local plan. All this could take us up to next year.

This also means work on any of the projects cannot begin until all this is completed with due process being followed. And if the detailed EIAs are properly carried out, the start time would be postponed even further.

But even with due process, how likely is public feedback and criticisms on key issues likely to be incorporated into the plans given the enormous corporate profits riding on all this? After the public display, the draft plan will not be shown to the public again until after it has been gazetted; so what can the public do if their legitimate concerns are not incorporated?

As it stands now, are the new property development projects along the northern coast eg Batu Ferringhi consistent with the existing Penang Structure Plan especially in terms of property development density? Who is there to object to this?

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Ernie
Ernie
25 Jul 2016 11.10am

Georgetown World Heritage Site Special Area Plan to be gazetted 1st August 2016. Kenyataan Media YB Tuan Jagdeep Singh Deo, Ahli Majlis Mesyuarat Kerajaan Negeri Pulau Pinang (EXCO) Perancangan Bandar & Desa dan Perumahan pada 5 Julai 2016 (Selasa), di George Town, Pulau Pinang: PEWARTAAN LAPORAN RANCANGAN KAWASAN KHAS TAPAK WARISAN DUNIA GEORGE TOWN Laporan Rancangan Kawasan Khas Tapak Warisan Dunia George Town (RKK TWDGT) adalah disediakan bagi memenuhi Subseksyen 15(1C), Akta Perancangan Bandar dan Desa 1976 (Akta 172), dan ia juga berperanan sebagai satu garis panduan untuk tujuan kawalan perancangan pembangunan dalam Tapak Warisan Dunia UNESCO George Town. Dengan… Read more »

David Loman
David Loman
9 Jul 2016 12.03pm

Singapore’s Ang Mo Kio township gets new 4-km cycling path in its new makeover.
http://www.todayonline.com/singapore/ang-mo-kio-residents-get-new-4km-cycling-path-part-towns-makeover

David Loman
David Loman
10 Jul 2016 11.34am
Reply to  David Loman

Phase 1 of Ang Mo Kio walking and cycling town completed

SingkaPenangLang
SingkaPenangLang
4 Jul 2016 2.49pm

GEORGE TOWN, July 4 — Increasing cases of eviction within the George Town Heritage zone has spurred the state government to consider enacting of an amended version of the abolished Rent Control Act.

Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng today announced the state executive council’s decision to evaluate the option as a way to allow existing residents to remain within the heritage site.

https://sg.news.yahoo.com/penang-mulls-reviving-rent-control-035700899.html

David Loman
David Loman
8 Jul 2016 7.46pm

Read how speculators conduct ‘group purchase’ of heritage houses in George Town:
http://www.orientaldaily.com.my/north/bm20204268

james k
james k
30 Jun 2016 9.01pm

Any update during the transport council meeting?

Did the local plan meeting on the previous day make any favorable changes towards developers?

tunglang
tunglang
30 Jun 2016 10.36pm
Reply to  Anil Netto

Which means another round of Bahasa translation after a revision of Local Plan (which can go on & on just to put preference for ‘anytime’ developers’ fanciful dictates?

tunglang
tunglang
29 Jun 2016 8.44am

Poser over status of the still bald Botak Hill http://www.freemalaysiatoday.com/category/nation/2016/06/28/poser-over-status-of-the-still-bald-botak-hill/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+FreeMalaysiaToday+%28FMT+News%29 Penang Citizens Awareness Chant Group says the developers and land clearers obviously have no respect for the Penang Government as they know they will only be slapped with a minimal fine and will get away with the illegal land clearing. GEORGE TOWN: The Penang Citizens Awareness Chant Group questioned the Penang Government and local council on the status of mitigation work on Bukit Relau, better known as Botak Hill. Its adviser, Yan Lee, said to the layman, there had been no improvement on the hill as the bald patch could… Read more »

calvinsankaran
29 Jun 2016 2.02pm
Reply to  tunglang

It is no secret that the Big Developers have no respect for the state govt and the local council as they know that the all power is held by the Tokong and the rest are mere minions merely carry out instructions. I can’t recall a single instance where the local councils or the state exco came down hard on the violators, unless when instructed by the Tokong himself, which of course never happens in any case. In fact I see there is no distinction between the Big Developers and the state – they are one single entity whose sole objective… Read more »

tunglang
tunglang
28 Jun 2016 11.38pm

Three Penang Umno lawmakers reject appointment as Penang Transport Council members https://sg.news.yahoo.com/three-penang-umno-lawmakers-reject-065010389.html Three state Umno lawmakers have refused to sign their appointment letters as Penang Transport Council (PTC) members as the trio are not allowed to influence the implementation of the RM27 billion Penang Transport Master Plan (PTMP). Teluk Bahang assemblyman Datuk Shah Headan Ayoob Hussain Shah said he did not want to accept his appointment letter due to the “rubber stamp” role assigned not just to him, but also to state opposition leader and Telok Air Tawar assemblyman Datuk Jahara Hamid as well as Bayan Lepas assemblyman Nordin Ahmad.… Read more »

tunglang
tunglang
29 Jun 2016 12.02am
Reply to  Anil Netto

Cheers Kopi-O kau kau.

zoro
zoro
30 Jun 2016 12.04am
Reply to  Anil Netto

Anil good do your duty and not tunlan lap dog unlike some main main politics day in and out with the same tone for years. We blast you for any incorrect facts.. Be a cat and make own decisions.

glissantia
glissantia
28 Jun 2016 1.21pm

In terms of its own pollution, China is at the critcal stage where USA was around 1975-1985. Its outraged people are protesting. As it cleans up, it finances at least part of the effort by exporting its unwanted industries (e.g. some mining), tech. and products. In the case of Bolehland, “tourists” from China are also coming with little difficulty to work, start scams, seek brides, etc.

Jive
Jive
28 Jun 2016 12.29pm

Reclaimed land opposite QBay Mall for condo project by Ideal Group, soft launch apparently held last week for so-called VVIP only ( aggregate foreign purchase to finance the project?). Gold Coast condo folks protested over reclamation in front of them, now they cannot stop environmental impact of free sea water flow in their backyard?

tunglang
tunglang
30 Jun 2016 10.37pm
Reply to  Jive

Have you drank the sea water???

ong eu soon
ong eu soon
28 Jun 2016 8.30am

This is what happened when NGOs initially refused to make Lim Guan Eng to toe the line: 1) After there is a change in shareholding structure of Consortium Zenith Bucg Sdn Bhd the contract become voidable. Why the state government didn’t do anything to void the award of project to Consortium Zenith Bucg Sdn Bhd ? 2) Did Consortium Zenith Bucg meet the minimum paid up capital requirement of the pre qualification exercise? 3) How much is the current paid up capital of Consortium Zenith Bucg? 4) Is it true that China Railway Construction Corporation’s unit signed the road and… Read more »

tunglang
tunglang
28 Jun 2016 8.05am

Anil, good luck today – your first(?) transport council meeting.
Will it be tied to CAT’s FOI?
Tips: Go there with a smile, on your recorder & iPhone (video & sound), Keep Calm (instead of frustration of the kind typical of CAT minions) & don’t be swayed by any saliva-filled promises than can twist & turn like Elvis Mao Wong (King Cat).

zoro
zoro
28 Jun 2016 11.09pm
Reply to  tunglang

no reporting on the first meeting? no newd or discussions at all? good bring spy or peep hole cameras. foi unlike mca n gelakan supporting big brother osa. very lucky to be in ptc gelakan n mca are all insiders or bn friendly like lee lam tye we cho keong and t aziz

tunglang
tunglang
29 Jun 2016 9.18am
Reply to  zoro

Why go so low…?
Tak berina kah?…

zoro
zoro
28 Jun 2016 1.10am

What kind of master plan and cost estimates produced by the planners? An elevated structure carrying a tram which is heavier can cost less than light rail train.? They both have the same overhead power lines but tram has to depend on driver whereas light rails can be driverless like drones which is the technology for the future. In a transportation, the major cost is not the vehicle but the civil and structure work.

Pamela Nowicka
27 Jun 2016 8.26pm

Err. what country is this???

tunglang
tunglang
27 Jun 2016 9.53pm
Reply to  Pamela Nowicka

You should ask what kind of state is this?
Singland satellite city?
Or to be more precise, Niao Kong Cosmo state?
FYI, cat’s … stinks sky high if your nasal membrane senses it from a distance!

David Loman
David Loman
27 Jun 2016 7.51pm

Anil,
Were you there in your advisory role for transportation plan?