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City Legacy Being Chipped Away

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GEORGE TOWN – A heritage activist has questioned if the local council and state government are serious about enforcing the Special Area Plan (SAP) for the George Town World Heritage Site.

He is claiming that many times, renovation work on prewar buildings had been carried out without permits.

Citing an example. George Town Heritage Action co-founder Mark Lay pointed out that a prewar building housing a coffee shop in Penang Road was renovated with cement and modern materials without a permit.

He said that prior to Sept 1, SAP rules were not enforceable as the SAP was still in draft form.

““So what we are now focusing on is the post Sept 1 period and we want to know if the council and the state are serious about enforcing this document or whether it is just for show,” he said.

The SAP for the George Town World Heritage Site was gazetted on Sept 1.

On the coffee shop, Lay said he was informed that the coffee shop’s permit was just for improving the piping system and electrical wiring but illegal renovations on the floors and walls were carried out.

“After we alerted the council, it issued the coffee shop with a stop-work order on Sept 27.

“The workers and contractors stopped work that afternoon but a few days later, they were back at work,” he said.

The cafe was closed when Lay went to check on it yesterday.

He then took reporters to a heritage shophouse in Jalan Cheong Fatt Tze and another in Penang Road.

A check at the shophouse in Jalan Cheong Fatt Tze showed that the floor tiles, which Lay said dated back to the 1920s, were hacked up.

“Hacking up the original tiles is actually causing the unit to lose value and at the same time, it is illegal.

“What we need is an effective monitoring taskforce. The enforcement must be more proactive than reactive,” he said.

Meanwhile, at the shophouse in Penang Road, Lay claimed the owners had removed the wooden shutters and replaced them with glass.

He said they also removed the shop’s metal grille and replace it with a roller door.

“After we complained to the council, it sent a letter telling the owners to fix back the shutters and grille but nothing has been done.”

MBPP councillor Felix Ooi, who is the planning and development alternate chairman, said the council was aware of all these cases.

“Notices have been given to the said premises and action has been taken on one of the cases.

“The property owners should have no excuse for not knowing the planning guidelines.

“Information can be obtained at MBPP in Komtar and the George Town World Heritage Incorporated office in Lebuh Acheh,” he said. – The Star Online

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