Monday, October 23, 2006

Forum: Allow access to plans

Penang : The public should be given access to proposals for all major development projects within three months of the submission of plans to the local authority.

This was among the resolutions adopted by participants of a forum held here yesterday to discuss greater transparency in city planning with focus on current and future development at Gurney Drive and Tanjung Bungah.

Another resolution called for public hearings on all applications to convert the use of large parcels of land originally zoned as institutional, educational or recreational.

Organised by the Penang Heritage Trust (PHT) and the Tanjung Bungah Residents Association (TBRA), the forum at the Caring Society Complex was attended by about 40 people, including five Penang municipal councillors.

Among the hot topics discussed was the proposed high-rise development on the former International School of Penang (Uplands) in Gurney Drive and the many high-rise buildings sprouting up on hills and shorelines of Tanjung Bungah.

The participants said the building of two 43-storey service apartment towers and a 37-storey business tower as well as other lower commercial buildings on the 4.1ha former Uplands School would affect residents along the entire Gurney Drive and Kelawei Road. There were also complaints from the participants that the public was not notified of major development projects in their areas.

PHT president Dr Choong Sim Poey said the resolutions would be submitted to the state government, adding that PHT would request for a dialogue with the state government and the council on the matter.

Municipal councillor Teh Leong Meng said Penang was the only state to invite land-owners within a 20m radius from the development site to a public hearing for feedback before building plans were approved. “Under the Town and Country Planning Act 1976, only neighbouring landowners are required to be informed. “If a road separates the development site from another building, only the road owner needs to be informed,” Teh said.

He said the council had no right to stop profit-orientated developers from submitting planning proposals that were within density requirements.

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