On the second day of the Lunar New Year, heritage circles in Penang were abuzz with talk that several buildings in the Runnymede property in Penang – the site of Stamford Raffles home in Penang – were being demolished, reminiscent of the way the nearby Metropole Hotel was flattened under stealth on Christmas Day, 1993.
Sadly, little has changed since 1993. Said one eye-witness who passed by Northam Road/Jalan Sultan Ahmad Shah at 6.45pm yesterday:
The excavators were still pounding away and smoke was rising. They are burning as well – so that they are not asked to put it back? All the ancilliary buildings are gone – including the one nearer the sea and EPF building which is supposed to be the one that was part of the Raffles building.
Runnymede was once the site of the colonial home of Stamford Raffles, when he was assistant secretary to the governor of Penang in the early 1800s. Raffles would go on to establish a British settlement in Singapore in 1819.
Planning approval was given in 1999 for three commercial towers and a hotel tower, which would dwarf the main three-storey Category 2 heritage building at the Runnymede property site. One of the towers has already been built, the EPF building.
Heritage activists want MBPP to clarify this: if planning permission was given in 1999, when the MBPP was not aware of conservation and had not adopted a conservation policy, why was permission automatically renewed until 2015? Was the developer asked to do a heritage management plan and a heritage impact assessment?
In 2014, Chow Kon Yeow said, “The planning approval is still valid until today because they have already built one of the office blocks, Bangunan KWSP which is next to it but only the heritage buildings site was untouched.” See report and photos of the buildings.
The Malay Mail reported back then that the council had issued an order to seek remedial works to the cluster of buildings which had fallen into disrepair. Number 40 had to be restored and preserved; the owner was also reportedly ordered to ensure the seven other buildings in the vicinity were safe and not in danger of collapse.
Incredibly, these buildings at the site of Stamford Raffles Penang home were deemed to have no heritage value. The Penang Heritage Trust even asked if a dig could be done before any work on the site could begin but received no word.
So what has happened to these other buildings now? Has any approval been given for their demolition, and if so when? (This would be the same fate as the surrounding buildings of the St Joseph’s novitiate, which made way for Gurney Paragon.)
What does “Batal 24-Nov-15” below mean?
Notice that it also says “Tiada Rancangan Tempatan”- No Local Plan for this high density project. (Where is the Penang Island Local Plan? Conveniently missing in action.)
The plan was to build three towers:
- A 31-storey, 180-room hotel tower
- A 12-storey commercial and office tower
- A 61-storey apartment block
as well as restoring the three-storey pre-war Runnymede hotel building, under heritage Category 2, and converting part of it into a 20-room hotel.
Look at how the main Runnymeade building could be dwarfed by towers.
What about the other existing buildings in the property?
As you can see, the developer is Warisan Pinang Sdn Bhd.
Warisan Pinang is a member of the Prima Prai Group.
Prima Prai is a wholly owned subsidiary of Pasdec Holdings Bhd.
And Pasdec Holdings Bhd, chaired by Pahang Menteri Besar Adnan Yaakob, is a member of the Pahang State Development Corporation Group.
Stamford Raffles was intricately connected to the Runnymede property. Read the fascinating history here.
So much for heritage.