Now here’s another worrying development. The Penang government has implemented a “build first, approve building plans later” policy in a bid to draw more investors to the state, according to a news report.
The approval process for detailed building plans are there for good reasons. They are to ensure that various requirements are met: engineering, safety, environmental, fire precautions, a hearing for neighbouring residents’ objections, etc. The approval process allows local authorities to ask developers to amend their detailed plans if these requirements are not met.
If we allow construction of a factory building to commence before a detailed building plan can be approved, what happens when the plan doesn’t meet minimum standards but the building is already nearing completion? What do you do with the building then? Will the state government order its demolition? Or close one eye? This makes a mockery of the whole building plan approval process and renders it a farce. It also creates double standards – why should investors be exempted from the building plan approval process while the rest of us, mere mortals, have to comply with such regulations?
Since the Penang state government is so afraid of exposing the state to claims of compensation, then it should chew on these provisions from the Town and Country Planning Act 1976. Provisions under the Act state that the authorities will be exposing themselves to compensation claims for revoking permission or ordering a demolition if requirements are not met.
Section 25 (3) says an order revoking a planning permission or building plan shall state the period within which the person to whom the permission or approval was granted is required to demolish any building erected pursuant to the permission or approval and the maximum amount that the local planning authority is prepared to reimburse the person in respect of costs incurred by him in carrying out the demolition.
Section 25 (7) states that if planning permission or approval of a buidling plan is revoked, and if the person claims compensation from the local authority for expenses incurred, the planning authority shall offer compensation that is adequate.
I have a better idea: why not go the distance and do away with all requirements. No need for planning permissions, building plan submissions, engineering department approval, PBA approval, bomba approval, EIAs, OCs, licences – oh, what a hassle! – then sit back and we will see a terrific influx of foreign investors into Penang. Only thing is we will probably succeed in drawing the worst kind of investors: those with little regard for regulatory requirements, safety, the environment – in short, those investors who are unable or unwilling to comply with the minimum standards and requirements set by developed nations. Hey, come to Penang, you don’t need to worry about all these things.
If the Penang government wants to speed up the building plans application process, the answer lies not in allowing the investors to build first and approve building plans later, but to improve the efficiency of the various departments in processing the building plans – without compromising standards and requirements, which are there for very good reasons.
This excerpt from Malaysiakini:
‘Build first, approve later’ policy to boost investment
Athi Veranggan | Nov 4, 08 3:28pm
Penang has implemented a new ‘build first, approve later’ policy to expedite construction of factories in its industrial zones.
This is part of the incentives to boost industrial growth and expand employment opportunities across the state.
Under this policy, local authorities will relax red tapes and allow investors – locals and foreigners – to build factories while their building plans are being processed.
lim guan engThis will cut time and costs for investors – therefore increasing Penang’s attractiveness – according to Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng. The leader believes investments will increase jobs, which will be a boon for the state.
Lim understands that this policy which is restricted for industrial premises will face objections from citizen interests groups – since factory buildings have to comply with guidelines and specifications stipulated by local authorities in order to obtain occupational certificates (OC).
The chief minister assured that while the OC and approval will come later, the investors still have to submit their project plans and receive initial consent from local councils. Construction can only commence after this.
“Of course investors must comply with the rules and regulations. Otherwise local municipalities will reject their building plans eventually and will not issue OCs.
“Construction of their factories definitely must meet local building guidelines and specifications,” he told newsmen during a press announcement by new American investor National Instruments (Nati) in George Town.