I read a news article in a local English daily about Batu Ferringhi’s new huge development. Should we be concerned with new 1,500 units of homes being built right next to ours? Of course we would and we should. The first thing that comes to mind would be ‘congestion’. Second word would be ‘pollution’. 1,500 units meant a minimum number of 3,000 new vehicles and perhaps 6,000 new residents. The current main road would have to handle this new increase together with all the existing infrastructure such as the sewerage treatment plant. Hmm…. suddenly it gets serious right? What if the sewerage plant can’t handle this new increase in usage? It would get seriously dirty and messy. Penang’s State Planning Committee (SPC) has plans to double the permissible density from 15 units per acre to 30 units per acre in January 2015. The residents in Batu Ferringhi are against this because this would lead to congestion and over-population in the island’s most popular beach area. Of course, if approved, then it will be applicable to the whole of Penang and not just Batu Ferringhi in future.
Personally, I support higher density as long as the state has plans to ensure that all the needed supporting infrastructure are built. As for whether I think that part is being properly done as at now, I think it would never be. The reason is because it is highly unlikely for the state government to build these infrastructures well in advance. Who is going to pay for them? However, if the developer is developing that area, some of these would be borne by the developers and the revenues that the state government gets from the development, it may then use a portion for the necessary. As usual, it’s a chicken and egg situation.
There’s also claims of adverse effects on Batu Ferringhi’s environment and charm. I really do think that this development would give more pressure to the environment but it’s pretty unavoidable because Batu Ferringhi is considered a prime area and it’s not going to be easy not to develope a prime area. Yes, everyone would like to say, why not develop in those less popular areas instead since land is still plenty but…. if the developers develop there, who would be buying? Development is always based on demand. It is easy to say please develop in new areas but the truth is, if the current owners sell their homes which would gain them huge profits, they can also buy bigger and better homes at less popular areas. Ok, I can’t speak for the MM2H residents as there’s the minimum property value requirement. Prices in island is still way higher than prices in mainland. Having said that, if the developer flouts the environmental concerns, be strict and fine them to the maximum instead of letting them go easily. Once this example is shown, not many other developers would dare to go against the regulations.
Another reason stated was because many of the residents were assured of a green tranquil environment in a low-density development and due to this assurance, the new development should not take place. I am not sure if there are any such assurance because I have known of condos which once had great views until another new block is built right in front of them. For these affected residents, who can they go back to for such assurance? The state government? Or the previous developer’s sales team who had promised them such views? Or actually, these assurances are merely promises which can never be put on paper and made into a formal agreement?
There are many other reasons stated, for example Pattaya and Phuket which does not have high-density, high-rise projects. Well, those two are really just famous beach destinations but Penang is a state in its own right with lots of other supporting industries. Thus, the demand for housing is much higher and is a necessity. Penang also does not rely only on tourism. Let’s be very objective about this. In terms of preference, unless of course these demands can be satisfied in mainland, the continuous building within the island is necessary. I think development is here to stay. Some delay may be possible but if the plans are approved by the state government, then it will proceed. Happy protesting or accepting.
written on 29 Dec 2014
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