Do more to protect heritage buildings, Penang MCA urges state govt

GEORGE TOWN: More should be done to protect Penang’s heritage buildings, says Datuk Tan Teik Cheng (pic).

The state MCA chairman was commenting on plans by the Penang Development Corporation’s (PDC) to demolish pre-World War Two era heritage buildings to make way for skyscrapers, office buildings and apartments.

“Has the DAP state administration completely forgotten or is ignorant of the fact that the existence of pre-war structures led to George Town being listed as a Unesco World Heritage Site? Such is the heritage charm that attracts both domestic and international tourists to Penang.

“The buildings along Jalan Chow Thye and Jalan Servis were constructed between the 1920s and 1931, and are considered Category II Heritage Buildings.

“In 2018, Penang Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow said Category II heritage buildings outside the heritage area can be demolished.

“Not having specific requirements to prevent their destruction can and might be abused as a loophole to circumvent the caveat that such demolitions are subjected to the local council’s approvals, and depending on the condition of the buildings.

“Besides Runnymede Hotel, Metropole Hotel (formerly Asdang House) among scores of other pre-war buildings, and now Burmah Square, how many more of Penang’s stately mansions or edifices constructed during colonial times, are set to be reduced to rubble for generic skyscrapers?” he questioned in a statement on Tuesday (Dec 7).

Tan added that it is disappointing that the DAP-led Penang state government is more eager to placate big-time property developers.

“The state government should instead be considerate towards the struggles of the smaller-scaled business community and provide the latter with incentives to restore and preserve the pre-war structures,” he said.

On Dec 1, the tenants occupying 34 premises in Jalan Chow Thye, Jalan Servis and Jalan Irrawadi in George Town, received notices terminating their tenancy as PDC had plans to develop the land.

They were asked to vacate within a month, which is Jan 1.

Meanwhile, Penang Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow said the tenants in Burmah Square have been given a reprieve and need not move out by Jan 1 next year.

He said based on a meeting with the tenants on Sunday, PDC had decided to give them more time while exploring other options to be taken into consideration.

Chow added that PDC would soon send new letters to the tenants on their tenancy status.