In Penang, building of 16-storey block worries area residents

The row of Noordin Street homes behind the construction site.

GEORGE TOWN: Residents of a row of heritage shophouses near Komtar here are upset over noise and ground vibrations coming from the site where a 16-storey tower is being constructed.

The pile drivers work close to 10 hours a day and the residents say they can’t stand the noise and are worried that the shaking will cause irreparable damage to their buildings on Noordin Street, which was built in the 1900s.

“We are dismayed that such a tower could be built on such an inappropriate site,” resident Tony Willock told FMT.

“The site is tiny, about 75 by 100 feet, and is only accessible through back lanes. We strongly protest and oppose this project because we believe it does not conform to standards under the law.”

According to the planning approval issued by the Penang Island City Council (MBPP) last November, a developer is to build a 16-storey service apartment block and amenities on the site, which used to be a car park adjoined to back lanes. Next to the site is a 23-storey hotel owned by the same developer.

Willock said he had been writing to MBPP since February 2019 to object to the project but had not received any reply.

The back lanes, which are important for fire engines to use during emergencies, have been reduced to about a metre from the original 4.5m.

Willock referred to the Uniform Building Bylaws of 1984, which requires a minimum buffer of 7.5m to the nearest building.

Sheet piling works being carried out at the construction site.

He said almost all of his neighbours had received a “notice to object” from the MBPP except for him.

Willock is originally from Melbourne, Australia. He said he decided to retire in Malaysia because he thought there would be peace and quiet.

“I think the Malaysia My Second Home division has the ethical role to inform future applicants of the programme that the rule of law does not apply to property development in Penang,” he said.

Another Noordin Street resident said the pile driving was a serious concern for his home, built by his great-grandfather in the early 1900s.

“I am worried that the walls will collapse any time,” he said. “There used to be fruit trees planted along the back lane. Now they have been uprooted. All this racket is not just damaging my property, but mentally damaging me too.”

Resident Tony Willock.

The developer told FMT the project was being carried out according to the law and denied claims that any regulation had been violated.

“We are following all the procedures and requirements by the authorities,” a company spokesman said. “Approval was given prior to the commencement of work.

“We appeal for cooperation from the surrounding residents and their patience during our construction work. We are currently doing sheet pile work to protect the structure of the adjacent buildings.”

FMT has contacted MBPP and is awaiting its response.

Fake or not? Check our quick fake news buster here.