Wednesday, 1 July 2009

UNESCO decides no action on George Town

Good news. UNESCO is not taking any action on George Town. We are not even placed on their Danger list.

According to this report, UNESCO's World Heritage Committee decided in Seville, Spain, that it would keep George Town on the list.

The decision came after Penang assured the committee that the height of the four planned hotels in the heritage zone would be reduced to about 60 feet (18 metres), abiding by UNESCO's prescribed height limit of roughly five storeys for new buildings.

Penang chief minister Lim Guan Eng had assured UNESCO in a letter dated June 4 that the developers have agreed to comply with the guidelines not to allow high-rise hotels.It had been feared that George Town would lose its status as a World Heritage Site because of plans to develop four hotels that would violate the height restrictions on new buildings. The previous government had approved of the plans for three of the hotels and the present government one of them before UNESCO added George Town to its World Heritage List in July last year. The present government had been uncertain whether to scrap the hotels' construction for fear of being sued by the developers.

UNESCO added George Town and Malacca to its list last year, saying both "constitute a unique architectural and cultural townscape without parallel anywhere in East and Southeast Asia.

Meanwhile, as reported by theSun in its online edition last week:
Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng reported the Penang government’s decision in a letter submitted to the Unesco's World Heritage Committee (WHC) on 4 Jun.

"We wish to provide assurances in no uncertain terms that the Penang Government is committed to preserving, protecting and promoting heritage in George Town," he said. In the letter, Lim reported:
  • Asian Global Business Sdn Bhd (which was planning a 51m hotel) will reduce the overall proposed height to 18m. It will also re-study the whole proposal in terms of scale, mass and volume to reduce the overall visual impact of its new buildings towards the existing heritage building, especially a clock tower. The project is located at the Weld Quay waterfront in the heritage site’s core zone.
  • Boustead Holdings Bhd had been instructed to reduce its 51m building to 18m. The project is also located on the Weld Quay waterfront in the core zone.
  • The E&O Sdn Bhd's 84m building would now be trimmed from 17 floors to 15 floors, and provide 5m setback from Farquhar Street after the hotel podium block. The project is located in the buffer zone.
  • Bintang Holdings Sdn Bhd, which has planned a 84m building, will amend the overall facade design to harmonise with the surrounding existing heritage buildings. The project is located at the edge of the buffer zone.
Other related developments that the government would take, as relayed to UNESCO, would include:
  • Introducing a Heritage Impact Assessment to be submitted to the Penang Island Municipal Council for review of any new development proposals within the heritage zone should any heritage guidelines be contravened;
  • Creating awareness and education on heritage issues by declaring 7 July as "George Town Unesco World Heritage Day" and a public holiday;
  • Forming a Technical Review Panel to review and assess any new proposed developments within the World Heritage Site;
  • Abolishing a proviso that allows new development projects within the heritage zone for buildings of more than 18m in height if the proposed site exceeds more than 50,000 square feet;
  • Approval by the State Assembly in its last sitting of a special state enactment, Chief Minister Incorporated (CMI), to govern and manage the world heritage site.

1 comment:

stephen said...

Merciful heavens.Its one thing to be in the list, but what about preserving the houses/buildings which are in a sorry state?And then you have houses with facades changed beyond recognition.Are there enough funds to save these houses and are the landlords willing to fork out sums of money to refurbish their properties to their original condition? I think it is going to be a monumental task but not before some houses become a pile of bricks.