Sunday, August 16, 2015

City of Dreams nightmare for Seri Tanjung Pinang residents

Comment by Anil Netto
This statement by a group of Seri Tanjung Pinang residents hammers home the point as to why land and property development-for-infrastructure swap deals are a bad idea.

Such deals compromise the development regulatory process by presenting the land reclamation or property developments projects as done deals – because they are needed to finance the infrastructure projects.

City of Dreams is intricately linked to the land-for-tunnel/highways swap deal.

Better not to have swap deals and instead separate the land reclamation/property development and infrastructure projects. Assess the technical, financial and environmental feasiblity of each project separately.

The residents are claiming the City of Dreams project is going to be 156 units per acre. If true, how is this even possible?

Press release by STP residents – 26 May 2015
Click here to

We are a group of residents of Seri Tanjung Pinang at Denai Endau 7, 9, 11, Lengok Endau and Jalan Bayu who are extremely concerned with the project dubbed as City of Dreams (CoD).

Planning Permission (PP) has been applied by Consortium Zenith BUCG Sdn Bhd (CZBUCG) and granted by MPPP on 17 February 2015 to build this 40-storey project comprising two blocks of serviced apartments both 32 storeys tall on top of a seven-storey car park and wellness facilities which in turn sit upon an underground level, housing electrical and mechanical facilities.

The project will be constructed primarily upon a piece of government reserve land known as Lot 702, Seksyen 1, Bandar Tanjung Pinang, DTL, Penang approximately measuring 3.67 acres which is part of the reclaimed land under Seri Tanjung Pinang (STP) Phase 1. The project as approved will have a total of 572 serviced apartments, which translates into a density of 156 units per acre.

We, the concerned residents who have our homes within a stone’s throw from CoD, strongly oppose this extremely high-density high-rise project immediately adjacent to our neighbourhood, which only comprises three-storey landed houses.

The site on which CoD is to be built is the one and only remaining open space within our neighbourhood – a green field on which we and our children have been playing football and flying kites.

Across the field is the green expanse of the one and only remaining mangrove forest on the northeast coast of the Penang Island. It is a few acres wide and has been formed naturally at the extended estuary of Sungai Balik Batu and is home to a complex ecosystem of flora and fauna and for the migratory birds. But soon we will lose both altogether to some hard cold concrete structures.

Close to a hundred objections were put in by us against the PP of this project. We are disappointed that only 10 of our residents were recognised by MPPP as the affected owners.

We are even more disappointed with what went through during the objection hearing held by MPPP on 10 February 2015 and the MPPP’s decision granting the PP as applied by ignoring totally our grounds of objection. The grant of PP on 17 February 2015 was only communicated by MPPP to us via its letter dated 5 March 2015.

We have filed appeal against the grant of PP on 6 April 2015 in the Appeals Board but until the date of this press conference have not received any notice of case management or hearing. On the other hand the developer, Zenith Ewein Sdn Bhd, has announced its plan to commence work on CoD in the second half of 2015 as reported in The Edge Financial Daily on 13 April 2015.

As at today, preliminary works of hoarding up the site and total clearing of the Penang Outer Ring Road (Porr) reserve land part of which to become access to the site have been carried out.

Through our lawyers, we have sent in our written request dated 9 April 2015 to the Building Department of MBPP to withhold approval of the Building Plan of COD and issuance of the Commencement of Work (CoW) order pending disposal of our appeal but we have not received any reply thus far.

To our surprise, we then discovered that the Building Plan had been put in on 9 March 2015 – before many of us even knew of the grant of PP and efficiently approved by the Building Department of MBPP within a month on 7 April 2015, i.e. the next day after we filed in our appeal and two days before our written request.

The turn of events has left us with no choice but to call for this press conference and pursue all necessary legal actions to preserve the status quo until disposal of our appeal. We urge the MBPP to accede to our request immediately so as not to issue the CoW order until disposal of our appeal in the Appeals Board.

We know that the Penang State Government through its various administrative arms has played a central role in this project as can be confirmed from YB Lim Hock Seng’s response to a written question by YB Yap Soo Huey in the State Assembly last week –

  • from agreeing to give CZBUCG as payment in kind 110 acres of land in Bandar Tanjung Pinang for the construction, feasibility study and detailed design works of a RM6.3bn integrated road transport project via an agreement signed on 6 October 2013
  • to signing as the land proprietor of Lot 702 through the Penang Registrar of Titles in the PP application submitted by CZBUCG in October 2014
  • to approving the PP on 17 February 2015 in a rather extraordinarily efficient fashion.
According to YB Lim Hock Seng, Lot 702 (3.67 acres) worth RM135.08m had already been given to CZBUCG as part of the said payment in kind for the feasibility studies for three proposed roads which were 97 per cent completed.

As revealed recently by one of the six parties bidding to be Project Delivery Partner (PDP) in another part of the Penang Transport Master Plan (PTMP) as reported by The Edge Financial Daily on 31 March 2015, the PDP chosen will be awarded the reclamation rights to the 1,500-acre Middle Bank, similar to the land swap deal with CZBUCG, which had been tasked with building the undersea tunnel and the three roads.

It was also revealed that while waiting for the reclamation of Middle Bank to be completed, the PDP chosen is welcomed by the state government to “scout around” state land and acquire it to help kick-start financing the TMP packages.

That revelation makes us wonder if Lot 702 was also given as a kick-start financing tool for the projects involved and not as payment in kind due for the feasibility studies done (only 97 per cent) for the three proposed roads.

The people and voters of Penang have very high hope and expectation of its current state government. When it comes to performing its duties and exercise of powers under the Town and Country Planning Act 1976, the MBPP must uphold and ensure conformity to established principles and guidelines in order to achieve proper, structured and sustainable development of Penang.

The Selangor state government has recently demonstrated good governance in listening to its people – by saying no to or reducing the damaging portion of some mega projects that tend to only serve certain commercial interests but which would adversely affect the environment and quality of life of many; look at the cancellation of Kidex and the development of the PKNS Sports Complex in Selangor.

Not only that the Penang State Government shall emulate Selangor in listening to its people, it shall also live up to its own slogan of CAT.

We therefore urge the Penang state government, which holds the key to this project, to answer the following questions in a manner compatible with a competent, accountable and transparent state government:

  1. Is Lot 702 specified to be part of the 110 acres as payment in kind in the agreement dated 6 October 2013?
  2. When is/was the payment due for the feasibility studies of the three proposed roads under the agreement?
  3. If Lot 702 has been alienated to CZBUCG, when was it done?
  4. Is the state government willing and ready to provide us a copy of the agreement to us if we are to apply under the Freedom of Information Enactment?
  5. In the Draft Local Plans 2005-2020 of Penang Island, our neighbourhood is zoned as Established Housing Area (“Kawasan Perumahan Tetap”) whilst Lot 702 is zoned for “institution”. Has there been any change to that? If so, when?
  6. What considerations did the State Planning Committee take in coming out with the density of 156 units per acre for CoD? Did they know the site is sandwiched between a neighbourhood of three-storey houses and a plot of mangrove forest currently?
  7. How much green open space was originally provided for in the Master Layout Plan of STP Phase 1? How much is left currently?
  8. Isn’t Lot 702 stated to be for low-density residential development in the DEIA Report on STP Phase 2?
  9. Where will be the permanent access for CoD? When will it come into existence?
  10. The PP as granted provides that part of Lot 721 will be used as temporary access (50 feet wide) to the building site. Does that not infringe the zoning of Lot 721 as open/recreational space (“kawasan lapang/rekreasi”) under the draft Local Plans thereby further depriving us of the very limited green/recreational space we can enjoy?
  11. Will any part of Porr reserve land be used as the permanent access for CoD? If so, will there be any conflict with the state government’s duty to carry out the Porr project as specified under the Penang Structure Plan 2020?
  12. Apart from stipulating in the PP that the conditions for approval (under “Kajian Penilaian Kesan Kepada Alam Sekitar (EIA) Ruj no AS(PP)E04(6)P-2/90(56) dated 7 June 1993) must be fulfilled for this project and stating generally that the project must preserve the quality of environment so that a sustainable development can be achieved, has any EIA study been conducted for this high-rise and high-density project (with an underground level as well) on a part of reclaimed and seaside land as required under the Penang Structure Plan 2020 gazetted on 28 June 2007?

Before everything is too late, we urge the Penang state government to look for an alternative plot of land to build CoD or review the PP granted. It must realise that the project will not be a sustainable development if built on Lot 702 and will not be fulfilling many of the Sectorial Bases (“Dasar-dasar Sektoral”) envisioned in the Penang Structure Plan 2020. It shall not ignore the ABC of planning laws.
The need for the state government to fulfil its contractual financial obligation for some other proposed public works shall not be taken as the paramount reason to have approved the project of CoD on Lot 702.
We would also like to seek information and clarification from MPPP the role played by SPC (if any) in the approval process and why the PP for CoD departed materially from the established guidelines and principles laid down and applicable to all planning approvals.

We sincerely believe the established guidelines which are within public knowledge are fundamental to a certain, predictable and transparent planning approval process to ensure Penang remains a highly liveable city and should be applied consistently throughout.

Finally, we wish to also record our gratitude to YB Yap Soo Huey, our State Assembly representative, YB Teh Yee Cheu and YB Zairil Khir Johari, who have voiced their concerns and stated their objections against CoD to the authorities concerned. We hope they will continue to do their best to support us in this cause.


List of Reference Materials
  1. Notice from MPPP dated 5 March 2015 and Borang B under Section 22(6) Town and Country Planning Act 1976
  2. Grounds of Appeal to the Appeals Board
  3. Plan contained in EIA Report of STP Phase 2 referring to Lot 702 as low density residential development
  4. The Edge Financial Daily, 31 March 2015 pg 4
  5. The Edge Financial Daily, 1 April 2015 pg 2
  6. The Edge Financial Daily, 13 April 2015 pg 4
  7. The Edge Financial Daily, 17 April 2015 pg 4
  8. Relevant portions of Draft Local Plans of Penang Island 2005-2020 (“Intensiti”, “Pengezonan” and “Peta Cadangan”)
  9. Google Maps satellite images of the area
  10. Letter of objection against CoD from YB Teh Yee Cheu to Penang Rural and Urban Planning Department (“Jabatan Perancang Bandar dan Desa Negeri Pulau Pinang”) (JPBD) dated 12 August 2014 and to MPPP One Stop Centre (OSC) dated 16 November 2014
  11. Letter of objection against CoD from YB Zairil Khir Johari to JPBD 26 November 2014
  12. Letter of objection against CoD from YB Yap Soo Huey to JPBD dated 14 January 2015
  13. Sin Chew mykampung online report, 12 May 2015
  14. The Malaysian Insider report, 13 May 2015
  15. The Star Online report, 16 May 2015
  16. Article by Goh Ban Lee, as a senior research fellow at the Penang Institute, in Penang Monthly dated 13 August 2011 – “Clarifying the role of politicians in development control”

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