The Penang Forum Steering Committee would like to apologise for the delay in sending out this brief summary of a recent meeting with Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng on Sunday, 16 October 2011.
The meeting lasted from 5.00pm to 8.00pm.
The State was represented by:
- The CM
- YB Chow Kon Yeow
- Dato Lee Kah Choon
- YB Lim Hock Seng
- YDP MPSP Puan Maimunah
- MPPP City Secretary Ir Ang Aing Thye
- Pengarah Building Dept MPPP Ar Yew Tung Siang
Penang Forum was represented by:
- Dato Dr Toh Kin Woon
- Francis Loh
- Lim Kah Cheng
- Lim Mah Hui
- Laurence Loh
- Anil Netto
- Dato Dr Leong Yueh Kwong
- Loh-Lim Lin Lee
- Tan Seng Hai
- Rudhrapathy Vijayavale
- Agatha Foo
- Lim Thean Heng
A summary of some of the issues raised and discussed is as follows. A short powerpoint presentation was made highlighting areas of critical concern.
1. Berjaya and submissions re Turf Club
The CM reiterated that as yet no plans have been submitted by Berjaya. PF expressed concerns about the plot ratios to be allowed, heights and densities
2. Siltation at Gurney Drive
PF showed pictures of mud flats etc. CM said the Developer’s Consultant had claimed that the silting was caused by the dredging at the port(?!) Experts from PF revealed that Danish hydrological consultants (without prejudice and study) had observed the site quite carefully and postulated (again without prejudice) that the siltation was from the E&O/Straits Quay project. The CM asked PF to find a reputable international independent consultant and recommend to the State. PF stated that the study should be independent of E&O and the developers involved in the land reclamation deals should contribute to the state to fund their fees.
3. Local Plan
PF expressed frustration that the LP has yet to be displayed. This is obviously linked to the proliferation of high density – increased plot ratio development being applied for throughout the State. The CM stated that they were waiting for the Special Area Plan SAP for George Town to be ready so that the two would not contradict each other(?!). The George Town SAP is in its final stage. Can the Local Plan really not be done simultaneously with the SAP? They are by the same planners, they surely cannot be that different.
4. Penang Hill
The development proposals for the Stations appear to have been shelved due to overwhelming adverse responses from the public. It is acknowledged that while the requirements for shelter at the Bottom Station are valid, the design solutions are overly massive and both unsuitable and unacceptable. The Top Station walkway as well as the walkway bridge to the car-park are viewed as totally unnecessary as well as unsuitable in design. Lee Kah Choon has set up an advisory committee. PF should ask for a seat; Penang Heritage Trust has been invited
5. Increased density development in Penang
PF showed a few slides depicting a digitalised rendition of a city block of projects of 87 units per acre adjoining each other.There are several projects in Penang that have submitted for the increased densities, this is a cause of great concern due to the over stretching of infrastructure, amenities and the traffic impact. The 87 units per acre are supposed to be for very limited and specific areas only (in particular ‘transport nodes’) but it appears as if development projects throughout the State are applying for this increased density. The CM assured PF that he was not on the ‘side of developers’ and that there was no reason to see him as such.
6. Traffic Impact Assessment studies
PF pointed out the weaknesses in the MPPP’s traffic evaluation process. In particular, PF recommended that an independent collective traffic impact assessment should be done for a particular area if there are several high-density projects in the pipeline for that area. This was particularly true for the Jelutong as well as the Kelawei Rd areas.
PF expressed grave concern about sPICE. It also gave reasons why sPICE did not meet CAT principles from both a procedural and substantive manner. Various calculations re ‘actual costs’ and ‘losses’ were presented as well as questions were raised re.the necessity of building underground which would raise both building as well as maintenance costs substantially. The overall question of the actual necessity or priority of a Convention Centre when private developers were already planning one, was raised.
There was also the issue of a lack of a supportive infrastructure and amenities around sPICE to ensure success, i.e. thousands of hotel rooms, shopping malls, restaurants etc. Participants cannot be bussed in through traffic jams from George Town or Batu Ferringhi. The actual ‘costs’ to the Penang public, of the 1500 units to be awarded to the developer, was also questioned.
CM’s reply focused on the 7-acre public park above sPICE and that the State would inherit the building in 30 years.
PF remains unsupportive of the entire sPICE Project and urged re-consideration
8. Land reclamation policy
PF stressed that a comprehensive Land Reclamation Policy was required. The State should conduct its own Master Plan which can then be tendered out but it cannot wait to be presented with proposals on a case-to-case basis. Reclaimed land should be alienated on leasehold basis and never on a freehold basis. This is enshrined in the National Land Code 1965.
The State should ensure that any reclaimed land should always leave some area for public parks, green spaces, usage and access. PF suggested a minimum of 30 per cent, the CM responded by saying he was thinking of 25 per cent.
9. Tunnel/road mega projects
PF questioned whether these mega projects would fit in with the Transport Masterplan that is currently undergoing preparation? PF urged the holding back of the announcements of any new major projects until the Masterplan is completed. These projects do not seem to take into account the extra traffic created or the cumulative effect of several projects together in the same area. PF members are included in the State Traffic Masterplan Committee. CM requested PF members to recommend suitable engineers. The CM raised the possibility of reintroducing trams.
10. Donations to alleviate poverty
PF made some proposals for poverty alleviation. Members were requested to identify people for a secretariat.