They knew that an application had been submitted to Unesco a few years ago for George Town to be listed as a World Heritage site. An updated dossier was submitted on 23 August 2007. At the very least, they knew the area is an historical site.
So why did they, how could the previous administration (three approvals) and the current adminstration (one approval) approve high-rise buildings in the heritage zone? That’s why I found it hard to celebrate the World Heritage listing.
In the heritage core zone (guidelines: max 5-storey/18-metre height restriction; tighter restrictions in certain areas):
- AGB Sdn Bhd’s RM500 million “The Pier at Weld Quay” project including the 13-storey, 51-metre high, 100-room Rice Miller boutique hotel at Weld Quay: 100,000 sq feet commercial plaza, 160,000 sq feet retail podium, 23 small office-house-office (Soho) townhouses and 105 condominiums;
- Boustead’s RM100 million 12-storey, 51-metre high, Royale Bintang Hotel (4-star, 295-room) project behind the post office in Downing Street;
In the heritage buffer zone (guidelines: 5-storey/18-metre height restriction):
- Low Yat Group’s 23-storey, 84-metre high project along Millionaire’s Row (Jalan Sultan Ahmad Shah);
- E&O Hotel’s 17-storey, 84-metre high extension.
Three of these were approved by the previous admininistration while the Low Yat project was approved by the present administration on 26 June, about two weeks before the World Heritage status was granted. Why did they approve this “quick scrambling” of applications? See theSun’s analysis here.
Come on, you are not aware of the guidelines? How can you approve a project without being aware of the guidelines for the area? That’s the first thing you should look up before approving a project!
Himanshu Bhatt in theSun has put it well:
What is most puzzling about the whole affair is this: how could the MPPP have approved such projects when it was at that very time drafting guidelines restricting new buildings from having a height of more than 18m (or about five storeys)?
The two actions are glaringly incongruous; on the one hand you approve a high-rise project, and on the other you are drafting legislation restricting high-rises….
What George Town requires now, more than ever, is not just “compliance”, but a soulful initiative from the very people who will determine how the city looks and feels in years to come.
George Town is now a Unesco heritage zone, not a businessman’s playground. Hopefully our developers and politicians will live up to the high expectations that locals and the international community alike have for this unique historic corner of the world.
It’s time the state government keeps a distance from developers and gets less “pally” with them and strictly enforce density guidelines and height restrictions.
How will the state government undo this? Will it take tough – but correct – action to conserve the area? Or will it come up with its now-standard refrain, “We could expose ourselves to millions of ringgit in losses if they (developers) take legal action.”