If you have been to Penang, you would note that there are many heritage buildings and areas which are well preserved. Of course, I would like to see the maintenance be continuous and there’s always much to improve but I would say I am happy enough when I cycle around Georgetown, taking photos and understanding history. I think many Penangites would agree with me. However, with the ever continuous development, would MPPP be able to keep up this conservation amidst the many new developments being proposed, approved and constructed? In News Straits Times, there was a report on one particular iconic bungalow building.
I do not know who is Dr. Lim Mah Hui but I think now many would know about him as he was reported in NST as someone who has criticised the lack of conservation efforts for historic buildings in Georgetown. In his capacity as a municipal councillor of Penang Island, he was unhappy with the tearing down of the iconic No. 218 bungalow in Jalan Macalister for a mixed development project. He urged the MPPP to start taking the conservation of heritage buildings seriously. The reason being Georgetown is a Unesco Heritage site and thus should be a role model for all others on what should be done to conserve heritage and beauty. Conservation should be the key word.
Personally however I think for the preservation efforts to continue, it takes more than just making sure the heritage building is not destroyed. It is also how the state would be able to derive sufficient income to build up reserves so that these preservation effort would not stop as soon as the state needs to cut expenditures. As all of us know, preservation of heritage buildings are definitely less important when compared to taking care of the well being of the people. Thus, let’s be objective, preservation must be done through careful development. Perhaps keeping the heritage building, maintaining it while a modern new development may be built surrounding it. One example, Paragon Shopping Mall in Penang. Another example, the Northam Building. Granted, due to one being old and another being new, it does not really blend well but sorry, without money, nothing happens and it is just not enough to charge entrance fee etc.
Last but not least, MPPP Heritage Building Department head Noorhanis Noordin said that MPPP would be updating the building conservation guidelines and ensure developers abide by them. May I ask that these guidelines be distributed and informed to as many people as possible? This will really ensure the developers abide by them. Otherwise, these guidelines would exist only on paper and sometimes, developers may not be aware of them. In my previous job, I have met with over one hundred developers, I think I have heard about conservation of heritage buildings only from a few of them.
written on 26 July 2014
next suggested article: Yellow carded by UNESCO, my dear Langkawi.