Penang hill project: Court to decide if early hearing needed


Source: FMT News

PUTRAJAYA: The Court of Appeal will decide on Nov 13 whether to expedite an appeal by a group of residents over a sensitive hillslope development in Penang.

Their lawyer, Gurdial Singh Nijar, said the court deputy registrar fixed the date in view of the latest tragedy on the island and fears that such a landslide may also hit them once the project proceeds.

The residents are seeking to restore the decision of the Penang Appeal Board involving hillslope developments.

On Jan 27 last year, the three-member board set aside the approval given by Majlis Bandaraya Pulau Pinang (MBPP) to the developer, Sunway City (Penang) Sdn Bhd, to build 600 condo units on a hillslope.

This piece of land is situated more than 76.2 metres above sea level, with a slope gradient of more than 25 degrees.The board had ruled that the approval was wrong as MBPP had failed to consider that the primary objective of the Penang Structure Plan was to preserve hillslopes, with only very limited or justifiable exceptions.

It said Sunway’s development of 600 dwellings, in five-storey to 16-storey high-rise blocks, on sensitive hillslopes could not qualify.

However, the High Court overturned this ruling on May 29 this year, leading to residents living adjacent to the proposed hillslope development, to file an appeal with the Court of Appeal.

Among their grounds of appeal were that the High Court judge failed to consider the intention of the Penang Structure Plan, which was to preserve hillslopes for environmental protection because these were increasingly being threatened and were critical to maintain ecological balance.

Gurdial said the judge also failed to consider that under the Town and Country Planning Act, MBPP should not have approved the project as it contravened the provisions of the Penang Structure Plan.

On Saturday, a landslide at a hillslope development in Tanjung Bungah resulted in the deaths of 11 workers, mostly foreigners.

Three other workers escaped with minor injuries.

Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng has said that a state-level commission of inquiry would be formed to investigate the incident.