Csos Voice Support For Penang Residents Appeal Against Hill Project


A group of Penang civil organisations has come together in a show of solidarity for Sungai Ara residents whose Federal Court appeal against the Sunway City project will be heard next week on May 25 and 26.
The residents are claiming that the project involves housing development on 'sensitive' hill land, which is more than 76m above sea level and has a gradient exceeding a 25-degree angle.
"This hearing is of significant public interest, as it involves aspects of planning law and the protection of hill lands and hillslopes from development, not only in Penang but also in the country.
"Over the years and in recent times, we have witnessed landslides and hillslope failures involving the loss of innocent lives, human injuries and damage to property," said the group which includes Mohideen Abdul Kader of Consumers’ Association of Penang, Sahabat Alam Malaysia's Mageswari Sangaralingam, Penang Forum's Khoo Salma, Zulfikar Aziz (Tanjung Bunga Residents Association) and Kam Suan Pheng (Penang Hills Watch).
According to them, residents from Sunrise Garden Condominium and a landed property at the foothills of the proposed project have brought this appeal to the Federal Court due to environmental and safety concerns.
On Nov 20, 2015, the Appeals Board under the Town and Country Planning Act (TCPA) 1976, upheld the objections by the residents against the approval of the project and the grant of planning permission by the Penang Island City Council (MBPP).
‘Special project’
Sunway City had argued that the MBPP had granted planning permission for the project properly because the proposed development is a “special project”. The residents argued that the sensitive hill lands are unsuitable for the development proposed.
"The Appeals Board ruled that the MBPP was wrong in granting the approval, as it had failed to consider properly that (in this case), the primary objective of the Penang Structure Plan 2020 is to preserve hill lands; and only very limited and justifiable exceptions were allowed as ‘special projects’, which justification was lacking in this project.
"The Penang Structure Plan 2020 was gazetted in 2007 and states that hill lands more than 76m above sea level and/or with a gradient exceeding 25 degrees cannot be approved for development, except in cases where they involve ‘special projects’. The plan however did not define what are ‘special projects’," said the CSOs in a statement.
They claim that in 2017, Sunway City and MBPP filed a judicial review application to the Penang High Court against the decision of the Appeals Board and on May 29, 2017, the High Court decided in favour of Sunway City and the MBPP.
In June 2017, the Sungai Ara residents filed an appeal to the Court of Appeal, challenging the decision of the High Court and the Court of Appeal delivered its decision only on May 21, 2021, more than two years after the appeal was heard, where it agreed with the High Court and ruled in favour of Sunway City.
"Hence, the residents have appealed to the Federal Court.
"We, as concerned groups, express our solidarity and support for the Sungai Ara residents in their appeal, as this case has serious implications not only for the immediate residents living in the vicinity of the project but also for all citizens who will be affected by development projects in environmentally sensitive areas, especially on hill lands and highlands nationwide.
"Since the decision of the Federal Court will also deal with planning law on the issue of structure plans and local plans, the implications of this case will be significant for all on how planning permission for projects is granted, particularly in regard to environmentally sensitive areas such as hill lands," they added. - Mkini

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