Mega project starts despite pending court decision, say residents

Residents and NGO representatives staged a peaceful demonstration outside the proposed project site in Sungai Ara today.

GEORGE TOWN: A group of residents in the Bayan Lepas area are upset with a major property development where earthworks appear to have been approved despite a challenge being mounted in court.

The residents held a peaceful protest outside the project site at Persiaran Kelicap, Sungai Ara, repeating their main concerns about the hilltop development, which comprises 602 apartments in 14 blocks, 92 bungalows and two clubhouses.

The group, comprising Sungai Ara residents, said their case against the developer was pending a decision by the Court of Appeal but signboards about the project had been erected.

The residents allege that the Penang Island City Council (MBPP) has violated several guidelines of the Penang Structure Plan 2020 by approving the project.

They also claimed the project was located on land higher than 250 feet above sea level and on a 43-degree slope gradient, which was above and beyond the Penang government’s self-imposed limits.

Sunrise Garden Condominium resident Manuel Nicholas, 66, spokesman for the residents, said they were surprised when the developer put up signboards outside the project site in January.

“How did the MBPP approve the earthworks while the court decision is pending? And how could the developer put up signboards obtaining approval for works? How is this possible?” he asked.

Question mark over ‘special project’ approval

He said the MBPP granted its planning approval on Feb 12, 2012 under the “Special Projects” category.

A special project is defined as a public infrastructure project, such as cable car, hill railway, roads, reservoir, bridge and helipad or any other government infrastructure. Samuel said such construction of housing, resorts, hotels and commercial property on hill land was prohibited under the Land Conservation Act 1960.

Gerakan president Dominic Lau, who was also present in solidarity with the residents today, said the party was against developments on hill slopes as it posed a serious threat to residents nearby.

He said the project was 850ft above sea level, and he questioned MBPP’s failure to follow guidelines.

“Who is going to take the responsibility if there is an accident at the project or outside the site as a result of the approval of the project? The state government should not misuse the mandate of the people for wrong things,” Lau said.

Penang Forum spokesperson Khoo Salma Nasution said the state government had approved 50 hill development projects since 2008.

“The MBPP requirement states that you cannot develop land 250ft above sea level or more than 25 degrees gradient, so on land with more than 25 degrees gradient, they cut the hills to make it flat.

“How can a condominium project be approved as a special project as it is not a public infrastructure project, and while we are waiting for the Court of Appeal’s decision on the project? Other projects in Tanjung Bungah and Paya Terubong are also waiting for the outcome of the court decision,” she said.

She added the residents living at the foothill fear that the soil would be washed into their houses during heavy rains or would undermine the foundation if the hills land is cleared for the projects.