by Parliamentary Opposition Leader, DAP Secretary-General and MP for Tanjung, Lim Kit Siang, in Penang on Wednesday, March 2, 1994:
MPPP’s explanations for the approval of 36-storey condominium project, SILVERTON, in the middle of Gurney Drive unsatisfactory and unacceptable
The explanations that have been given by the MPPP Councillor -Dr. Chin Fook Yen for the KPPP approval of the 36-storey condominium project, SILVERTON, in the middle of Gurney Drive are most unsatisfactory and unacceptable.
He had failed to address the many public interest questions arising from the MPPP approval of the exclusive 66-unit SILVERTON project, priced at RM1 million to RM2 million per unit, which would destroy Gurney Drive as a recreation centre and tourist attraction.
A week ago, I had asked the MPPP President, Datuk Tan Gim Hwa, to explain why the MPPP had disregarded the Penang Island Structure Plan which had identified Gurney Drive as one of the recreational sites which needs to be improved and enhanced.
Dr. Chin said the Structure Plan was a policy document and differed from a local plan, which had rigid guidelines on development.
Dr. Chin had struck the nail on its head. As there are no local plans, the MPPP can continue to rely on the Structure Plan which gives it great discretionary powers to approve schemes at its whims and fancies.
The MPPP will not be able to do this when the local plans have been approved and gazetted. Is this the reason why there has been inordinate delay by the MPPP to put on public display the local plans some of which had been completed a few years ago?
The public have a right to know the reasons for the inordinate delay in the Penang Island local plans, whether the MPPP has anything to hide in refusing to put on public displays the local plans it had completed and whether this is the root cause of hanky-panky in planning approvals in the MPPP.
The inordinate delay in completing the local plans in fact raises the question of the integrity of the MPPP of planning approvals of development projects.
Why MPPP could not designate Gurney Drive as ‘established area’ like Tanjong Bungah Park and Fettes Park to preserve its present skyline?
Chin Fook Yen also claimed that SILVERTON complied with the zoning and density guidelines for the area.
This is not a sastisfactory explanation, as the MPPP had set a precedent in designating Tanjong Bungah Park and Fettes Park as ‘established areas for the neighbourhood’. In both these areas, applications for a one-storey bungalow to be rebuilt into a two-storey bungalow or a two-storey bungalow to be rebuilt into a three-storey bungalow are rejected by the MPPP on the ground that these are ‘established areas for the neighbourhood’ although these applications comply with zoning and density guidelines.
In view of the fact that the Penang Island Structure Plan has designated Gurney Drive as a recreational site which, should be improved and enhanced, there is a greater public interest justification, to -designate Gurney Drive and its seafront as a ‘established area neighbourhood’ to maintain its existing skyline and surroundings.
Can the MPPP explain why Tanjong Bungah Park and Fettes Park have been designated ‘established areas’ but not Gurney Drive?
Dr. Chin’s claim that the Gurney Drive will continue to be accessible to the public as a promenade is also unsatisfactory. Dr, Chin should surely know that the promenade at Gurney Drive today would be a very different from a promenade which is walled up on one side by a concrete jungle of high-rise buildings, which will destroy Gurney Drive as a recreation site and tourist attraction.
Chin Fook Yen also said that while the Gurney Drive promenade was open to the public, the MPPP could not turn the private residences along the sea into a public recreation area.
He said: “If we want to do so, we will have to pay millions for the prime land at market value. But are ratepayers willing to accept a 10 per cent increase in their assessment to finance the project?”
Chin Fook Yen is the ‘father’ of community facility charges imposed by the MPPP on condominium projects to create a fund to buy recreation spaces for the public. To date, the MPPP had collected millions of ringgit from its community facility charges to buy recreation space. Has the -MPPP bought any land to become recreation sites?
The Penang Island ratepayers are entitled to know the total sums the MPPP had collected for community facility charges, and what are the lands they had bought to create recreation spaces for the people.
It is clear that the MPPP has ample powers and prece¬dents to preserve, improve and enhance Gurney Drive as a primary recreation site for Penangites and tourists, and the MPPP owes the people of Penang a full explanation why it is intent on destroying Gurney Drive as a recreation centre and tourist attraction.