Friday, April 30, 2010

Forum Report: Overdevelopment along the north coast of Penang

                            Tanjung Bungah sunset photo credit

17 April 2010 at Paradise Sandy Beach Hotel, Tanjung Bunga.
Organised by Tanjung Bunga RA (TBRA) and Batu Ferringhi RA (BFRA)

It was full house in the meeting room of the Paradise Sandy Beach Hotel on a Saturday night (despite a thunderstorm and bad traffic) where close to 150 people attended this public forum organized by the TBRA and the BFRA. About 40 of the attendees were MM2H residents.

The forum was opened by Dr YK Leong (TBRA member) giving an overview of the Penang north coast district. This narrow strip of land consists of 4 small townships Tanjung Tokong, Tanjung Bunga, Batu Ferringhi and Teluk Bahang. There is relatively little flat land and only one access road from Tg Bunga to Teluk Bahang.

George Aeria (TBRA President) presented the major issues affecting the Tanjung Bunga residents.

Do you know that Tanjung Bunga has been secretly reclassified from a Secondary Development Corridor to a Primary Development Corridor thereby increasing its housing units per acre to 15 from 75?
Do you know that Tanjung Bunga has disappeared from the Penang Structure Plan Map and that Tanjung Tokong’s boundary has been extended up to Mar Vista?

In a State Planning Meeting in Feb 2007, the State Govt (under the directive of someone in high office from the previous state government) changed the Penang Structure map for Tg Bunga from a Secondary Development Corridor to a Primary Development Corridor without following legal procedures. This was done without public consultation and review contrary to the Town and Country Planning Act 1976. The Penang Structure Plan was then gazeted in June 2007. A Primary Corridor has a maximum density of 75 housing units per acre whereas as Secondary Corridor has a maximum permissible density of 15 housing units per acre. Further, Tg. Bunga has disappeared from the Penang Structure Plan map and Tg Tokong’s boundary has been extended up to Mar Vista.

The TBRA has made several attempts with the present state government to reclassify back Tg Bunga to a Secondary Development Corridor. It has met with silence and limited response.

Do you know that the only remaining state land (Plot B) in Tg Bunga (beside the Penang Swimming Club and The Cove where Tanjung Club used to be) has been converted to TOL (Temporary Occupation License) land. This is the only remaining state land in Tg. Bunga where the public has free access to the beach.
Do you know that a private developer has proposed a marina and a 41-storey condo to be build on Plot B?

The TBRA has urged the state to preserve Plot B for public use and to make it into a coastal park but there is no commitment from the state.

Mr Low Swee Heong (a member of Penang Traffic Council) said JPJ data showed that there are more vehicles than people in Penang (1.75mil vehicles for 1.58 mil population) in 2009. The average vehicle registration growth for Penang is 9.5% per year making it the highest in the country. Swee Heong presented concerns of traffic congestion and pollution with the overdevelopment of the north coast district. There are grave concerns on emergency response services as the only accessible road to Batu Ferringhi is badly congested and jammed during holidays and weekends.

Mr Phil Langham from BFRA presented pictures and an overview of new developments in Batu Ferringhi. This area is zoned as a Secondary Corridor where the limit is only 15 units per acre but yet some projects have been approved beyond this density limit. There are currently 6 ongoing and approved projects with total in excess of 1000 housing units. Phil showed some very disturbing pictures of hill cutting and slope/cliff piling taken at some of the project sites. These hill desecration could not be seen from the road.

Summary of on-going and approved projects in Batu Ferringhi:

Ms Annelies Allain, a MM2H resident here for more than 20 years shared her thoughts about living in Malaysia. She said that there are currently 14895 MM2H residents in Malaysia. This is a small number compared to Singapore which has 130,000. Govt figures showed that out of the 15,000 MM2H residents, Chinese make up the most in numbers (about 30%), followed by Bangladeshis and UK. She said that there seems to be a big push by the Govt. and developers to build for the “wealthy” foreigners. Brochures tend to oversell with beautiful images of the sun, beaches, hills, nature and tranquility of the island where in actual fact many foreigners are disappointed when they come over. The Govt and developers overestimated the number of MM2H residents coming and this caused an oversupply and inflation of the price of properties. This gave developers an excuse to overbuild in Batu Ferringhi.

Ms Lim Kah Cheng (MPPP councilor representing NGOs) explained the workings of the MPPP. She advised the audience to go to the right department and right councilor in charge to address their grievances. The One-Stop-Centre (OSC) has authority of planning approvals for development. Details of councilors and officers in charge of various departments can be obtained from the MPPP website. She then explained the importance of the Penang Structure Plan (2005-2010) and the Local Plan. The Structure Plan is a very broadbase vision of the state’s policies in housing and public amenities, infrastructure, utilities, environment and others. The Local Plan however outlines the land use and density for every single plot of land on the island. Hence it will determine the kind of development in your neighbourhood. The Local Plan is currently in the final stages of drafting and will be out for public review and feedback soon. Kah Cheng urged the public and residents’ associations to actively participate in the Local Plan review when it is open for public feedback.

The forum ended with all the participants adopting a declaration expressing concern over excessive development in the north coast of Penang Island.

(Report by Tan Seng Hai)


Friday, April 23, 2010

Our Declaration from April 17 Forum on Overdevelopment


We, the Tanjong Bunga Residents’ Association (TBRA), the Batu Ferringhi Resident’s Association (BFRA) & all participants of the Forum entitled “Overdevelopment on the North Coast” held on 17th April 2010 at the Paradise Sandy Beach Hotel in Tanjong Bunga, do hereby declare that:
  1. the border of Tanjong Bunga starts from Jalan Gajah and ends just before the Desa Mar Vista Resort;
  2. Tanjong Bunga is in the Secondary Corridor and the diagram shown in the published State Structure Plan was wrongfully amended by the previous State Government to show Tanjong Bunga within the Primary Corridor; the diagram is to be considered null & void since it was changed secretly by the previous State Government via the then CM without following legal procedures;
  3. the text in the State Structure Plan and the legend of the diagram clearly state that Tanjong Bunga is in the Secondary Corridor and take precedence over the changed diagram;
  4. the present State Government has the legal authority and the moral obligation to rectify this glaring anomaly and to take all necessary measures to ensure that Tanjong Bunga remains in the Secondary Corridor;
  5. the soon to be released State Local Plan must incorporate and clearly show Tanjong Bunga to be within the Secondary Corridor zone, which sets strict limits & requirements on all development projects;
  6. all approved projects which have not commenced yet, are to be reviewed, esp. in terms of density, to be in line with Secondary Corridor requirements;
  7. all future development projects in Tanjong Bunga & Batu Ferringhi must comply and not exceed the density guidelines of the Secondary Corridor;
  8. all current and future proposed development projects in Tanjong Bunga & Batu Ferringhi must take into account the serious infrastructure limitations currently faced in these two areas;
  9. that NO FURTHER approvals be granted henceforth for all dangerous hill slope development projects on Class III & Class IV hill slopes in Tanjong Bunga & Batu Ferringhi;
  10. that all future development projects MUST NOT cause any environmental degradation such as soil erosion that leads to sea & beach pollution, thus severely affecting our local recreational use of beach & open space, the tourism industry & the MM2H programme;
  11. that there be no land reclamation along the North Coast until and unless a comprehensive Strategic Environmental Impact Assessment (SEIA) is undertaken and approved by ad-hoc panel of experts (not only by the State Government or MPPP);
  12. that at least two Public Recreational Parks be created for easy access by all: one on the top of Pearl Hill and the other on the rock pile, the so-called Sore Thumb, next to the Penang Swimming Club; plans for both these Public Parks have been submitted for gazetting.
We make the above Declaration as concerned citizens and residents of Penang and call upon our State Government to take all measures necessary to implement the above points in the public interest.
Tanjong Bunga, 17 April 2010


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