NGOs fuming over no invite to final Penang structure plan hearing

Penang Forum steering committee member Khoo Salma Nasution. (File pic)

GEORGE TOWN: Three Penang-based civil society groups today expressed surprise that the authorities did not invite them to a public hearing for the proposed 2030 state structure plan (PSP).

The plan will dictate what can and cannot be built in the state until 2030. It is expected to be approved in June this year.

The major proposals include rail lines, highways and the three reclaimed islands project.

Earlier today, it was revealed that only 53 respondents had attended the final briefing. The plan is expected to be endorsed by the State Planning Committee, chaired by the chief minister, next week.

The briefing, the groups say, would have been the final avenue to express their concerns over the plan.

Penang Forum steering committee member Khoo Salma Nasution said the state authorities did not have the courtesy to invite it for the final hearing despite knowing that the NGO had been actively voicing its views and concerns about the draft plan

“It is a matter of public interest and the document will govern how the state is developed in the future. But sadly, very few people were called in for the public hearing.

“Any kind of town planner who has any self-respect would not be able to use such a small sample of 53 people to approve a major structure plan such as this,” she told FMT when contacted.

Salma said after learning about this matter, a member of the forum called the state Town and Country Planning Department, which organised the hearing, to complain.

“We were told that we were not invited to the public hearing because we did not fill up objection forms in writing. Our e-mailed objections were not considered by them.

“These are stupid technicalities which are against the spirit of town planning,” she said.

It’s a sham, says CAP

SM Mohamed Idris.

The president of the Consumers’ Association of Penang and Sahabat Alam Malaysia, SM Mohamed Idris, was livid that they were not called for the final public hearing.

“It appears they have selectively called people that they like. I have said such public feedback or hearing sessions are a sham and I continue to stress this point.

“We demand that the Penang government make public the number of individuals who gave feedback and who was involved in selecting who could attend the public hearing,” he said.

Earlier today, state executive councillor Jagdeep Singh Deo said the Penang government had gone above and beyond what was necessary to hear various groups on their objections to the PSP.

He said Penang even extended its objection period to two months last September, one month more than what was required under federal law.

Only one NGO attended

Jagdeep said a final public hearing was held from Feb 13 to 15 and on Feb 22 this year, with a total of 53 people attending.

Giving the breakdown, Jagdeep said a total of 46 people were individuals, three were from government agencies — Penang Development Corporation, Universiti Sains Malaysia and the Agricultural Department, three represented developers and one represented Think City, which was categorised as an NGO.

Think City is an outfit under Khazanah Nasional, an agency under the economic affairs ministry.

The 2030 PSP is being undertaken because federal law requires all states to come up with a structure plan, which would essentially lay out the spatial plans for the state.

It outlines the development plans for the state for the next 10 years and will determine where homes can be built and more. The plan is renewable every five years. The last gazetted PSP was in 2007 and is still in use today.

There were plans to introduce a new 2020 PSP, but it never took off.