May 16, 2008 By PRISCILLA DIELENBERG
THE Penang Municipal Council approved the billion-ringgit Gurney Paragon project without knowing if the traffic dispersal system in the area would be in place, according to Penang Heritage Trust (PHT).
PHT chairman Dr Choong Sim Poey who claimed this, added this was because the state’s Penang Outer Ring Road (PORR) and the monorail projects were still pending.
“There is no logic at all in the approval,” he told a press conference in Penang yesterday.
The Gurney Paragon project is a mixed integrated development by Hunza Properties (Penang) Sdn Bhd that consists of two 43-storey ser-vice apartment towers, a 37-storey business tower and other commer-cial buildings.
Under scrutiny: Dr Choong showing a sketch of the Gurney Paragon project.
Dr Choong said that when the matter was brought to the state Planning Appeals Board earlier this year, the council responded that traffic congestion in the area could be overcome with the implementation of the PORR and a mass transit system as well as modification to the traffic system.
“The Ministry of Finance recently announced that the PORR and monorail projects have not reached the approval stage,” he said.
He claimed the modifications would need a massive restructuring of the road systems in the vicinity that would disrupt traffic.
Dr Choong also said that the council maintained that it was not required under the Town and Country Planning Act 1976 to consider the views of NGOs, but only the views of those living within a 20m radius of the project’s boundary.
He said the Planning Appeals Board dismissed the case in March when the sole complainant representing 73 affected residents in the area pulled out.
Dr Choong said the Act was first implemented over 30 years ago when there was no development of this size affecting hundreds of people around the area.
“This project is 2.5 times the size of Komtar. Even when Komtar was built, a comprehensive study of the whole area was done and it was not limited to the 20m radius,” he added.
While he felt that the Act should be amended, he said the council was entitled to use its discretion.
Dr Choong said he wrote to Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng and state Local Government, Traffic Management and Environment Committee chairman Chow Kon Yeow seeking a review of the planning permis-sion.
On March 24, Lim said the state would get views from all quarters, and would review the project if there were “justifiable grounds”.
When contacted, council president Datuk Zainal Rahim Seman declined to comment, saying that the state government was aware of the situation and that the case had gone through the Planning Appeals Board.
Hunza Properties Bhd executive chairman Datuk Khor Teng Tong declined to comment, saying he would leave the matter to the authorities