Clamour to degazette KL City Plan grows as more parks become skyscrapers

Soo Wern Jun
A man checks his phone in the shade on a hot day at KLCC Park in Kuala Lumpur, March 30, 2016. ― Picture by Yusof Mat Isa

KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 12 — Calls for Federal Territories Minister Khalid Abdul Samad to degazette the Kuala Lumpur City Plan 2020 (KLCP 2020) have grown louder over the last few months.

The clamour comes as residents discover proposals for high-density developments in the crowded capital city and fear the loss of public open spaces and institutional land.

According to lawyer Derek Fernandez, the KL City Plan is a critical document in any planning and development control in the national capital.

He said that generally, no development can be approved if the proposal is contrary to what is gazetted in the KLCP, which was gazetted in October 2018.

“The city plan is a social contract and blueprint for sustainable development after the public have been consulted through hearing process required by the law.

“But what has happened now is that the KLCP 2020 contains plans which were not displayed for the public for due objection and consultation.

“This means that the KLCP 2020 has also legitimised development orders which should never have been approved since there were no prior public consultations done before the city plan was gazetted,” Fernandez told Malay Mail when contacted.

So why does it matter if the KLCP 2020 stays gazetted? What does it mean to Kuala Lumpur residents and workers if the current city plan is kept as a reference for future developments?

Federal Territories Minister Khalid Abdul Samad speaks during a press conference at the Kuala Lumpur City Hall January 16, 2019. — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa

Fernandez explained that without degazettement, residents cannot effectively protest any dubious future development project because the current city plan excludes their objections and feedback, the Draft KLCP 2008 when their views were included.

The city also underwent developmental changes in the 10 years between the draft and the gazetted KLCP.

“In the 2008 draft, for example, residents in Taman Rimba Kiara and Taman Tiara Titiwangsa gave their objections and comments and agreed respectively to keep land zoned for a public park, community hall and football field.

“But when the KLCP 2020 was gazetted, these areas had their zoning changed to high density residential developments. Both affected areas have had their cases challenged in court and have yet to find a solution in the problem,” Fernandez said.

He said that this was not what the residents agreed to during consultations and public objection hearings for the Draft KLCP.

He asserted that since then, development projects have increased KL’s building and population density, resulting in the destruction of existing infrastructure and public open space, including green parks.

“To my memory, this is the biggest abuse of power in planning and development control in Malaysia,” he said.

In the past two years since the gazettement of the KLCP 2020, the former National Institute of Health (NIH) building located on Jalan Rumah Sakit Bangsar has been earmarked for a mega project proposed by property developer SP Setia Bhd.

In the proposal, the corporation would gain the premium KL land through a swap deal with the government for building a new NIH complex in Setia Alam, Selangor.

Bangsar residents claimed that the change in classifying NIH land from ‘institutional land’ in the Draft KLCP 2020 to ‘mixed development’ in the gazetted KLCP 2020 justified their fears of over-development in KL. — Picture by Hari Anggara

Bangsar residents claimed that the change in classifying NIH land from “institutional land” in the Draft KLCP 2020 to “mixed development” in the gazetted KLCP 2020 justified their fears of over-development in KL.

“As it is, these areas surrounding the former NIH complex are very congested,” said Datuk M. Ali who lives in Bukit Bandaraya, Bangsar.

The adviser of pressure group Selamatkan Kuala Lumpur (SKL) said residents surrounding the NIH land were not approached for feedback prior to the rezoning.

Fernandez said the NIH land rezoning was only one of “hundreds of violations” in the gazetted KLCP 2020.

“There are so many more. What about those who are not aware about these changes and only find out when construction commences?” said Fernandez who has been approached by SKL for his town and planning advice.

“It is well and fair that the DBKL and FT minister decided to list down the violations, but the list should then be subjected to investigations or review. Why did they make changes anyway to the city plan according to the violations?” he questioned. 

One of the participants of the picnic dons a ‘Save Taman Rimba Kiara’ T-shirt at Taman Rimba Kiara in Taman Tun Dr Ismail, Kuala Lumpur August 4, 2018. — Picture by Shafwan Zaidon

Fernandez also said that if the FT minister does not make things right with the KLCP 2020, more problems similar to those in Taman Rimba Kiara, Taman Tiara Titiwangsa and the NIH land will occur in the near future.

“All the FT minister needs to do is degazette the current city plan and gazette the 2008 version which had gone through a complete process of public objection and consultation by the public.

“But at the rate that things are going, the Pakatan Harapan manifesto for more transparency and democratisation of local government seem to be a myth as far as Kuala Lumpur is concerned,” he said.

Pressure group Selamatkan Kuala Lumpur (SKL) has urged all Kuala Lumpur residents to speak up should they suspect ‘dubious’ approvals of development projects in their residential area.

The group comprising various Kuala Lumpur Residents’ Associations (RA) is currently compiling a list of areas that are affected by the KLCP 2020 or involved in suspicious land swaps or transactions.

“Apart from Taman Rimba Kiara, Taman Tiara Titiwangsa, Bangsar Utama, Bukit Bandaraya and Jalan Abdullah, we are looking into areas such as Taman Seputih, Taman Desa, Setiawangsa and Taman Melawati. Don’t let DBKL and the FT Minister get their way with the KLCP 2020,” SKL adviser Ali told Malay Mail.

File picture of Taman Desa Phase 1 Residents’ Association president Frank Yeh speaking to a fellow resident at a pasar malam. — Picture by Hari Anggara

Frank Yeh, a Taman Desa Phase 1 RA representative, pointed out that even with zoning reflected in the KLCP 2020 as Tenaga Nasional Bhd reserve land and a playground, high rise developments have been “illegally” approved in his residential neighbourhood and in nearby Taman Seputih.

“What more with the 273 violations which were gazetted as part of the KLCP 2020. Will the FT Minister resolve all of these changes which were made against the will of the people? Or will he continue to prey on the people’s ignorance and resignation from the changes?” Yeh asked.

Taman Desa residents filed an appeal for their judicial review last October, but lost the case on July 15.

Yeh said the residents have yet to decide whether or not to appeal.

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