No approval of reclamation project ‘technically true’, says Penang CM

Penang Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow says under federal town planning laws, federal authorities can only advise, not approve, projects such as the three reclaimed islands project.

GEORGE TOWN: Penang Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow says today’s statement by Federal Territories Minister Khalid Samad that Putrajaya had not approved the three islands project is “technically true” as the government can only advise states wishing to embark on large-scale projects.

Chow, who announced yesterday that the National Physical Planning Council (MPFN) had agreed to the project, said confusion arose when media outlets said it was “approved”.

Adding that this was inaccurate, he said this was what had led to Khalid’s statement.

He said under Section 2A (2)(b) of the Town and Country Planning Act 1976, the MPFN advises the federal or state government on matters related to town planning.

He added that it would have been more accurate to say “given the green light”, as was used by his government in the past.

He also said the project would continue as long as the state government complies with the 18 pieces of advice given by MPFN.

An artist’s impression of the three islands project off the southern coast of Penang island.

However, he said the environmental impact assessment (EIA) for the reclaimed islands had been rejected last year due to concerns over the impact the project would have on fisheries.

He said the EIA was initially scheduled to be displayed for public feedback on April 29. Due to its rejection, a new EIA was submitted to the Department of Environment in February.

He said it would take another year to fully comply with all the requirements before actual work on the project takes place.

“It is in our DNA to obtain all approvals before starting any work. I can’t give you an exact date when we can start. We need to work on the detailed design and financial architecture. It is also subject to how well we can comply with the requirements,” he said.

Penang Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow (centre) with state secretary Farizan Darus (left) and state Public Works committee chairman Zairil Khir Johari.

Earlier, Chow revealed the 18-point advisory given to the Penang government by the MPFN on the three reclaimed islands. The points include a policy banning the construction of condominiums priced at above RM1 million.

In summary, he said the priority is to expand the Penang International Airport to one of the reclaimed islands directly below it and to build a high-tech industrial hub.

Chow also said the government plans to connect all three islands with light-rail transit (LRT) and trams, to ensure first and last mile connectivity.

He said the islands will also have a 70:30 ratio of public transport vehicles to private vehicles, to negate 3.2 million tonnes of carbon emissions.

Chow said 10% to 14% of the islands will be marked as open space for recreational activities and will be built to withstand tsunamis. At least 30% of the housing will be built as affordable homes.

The three reclaimed islands, formally known as Penang South Reclamation, measure nearly 17 sq km. The islands measuring 9.3, 4.45, and 3.23 sq km will be reclaimed off the coast of Permatang Damar Laut, near Bayan Lepas.

The reclaimed land will belong to the Penang government but will be auctioned off to the highest bidder to finance the RM46 billion Penang Transport Master Plan (PTMP).

The PTMP envisions a series of highways, LRT lines and other modes of transport to be built in the next 20 to 30 years.