THE growing number of developments encroaching onto green areas such as Taman Rimba Kiara and Bandar Tun Razak has created quite a stir among the local community recently.
While green spaces within urban areas are known to offer a healthy environment and enhance liveability, they also provide economic benefits.
According to a research report by the Forestry Commission, a non-ministerial government department responsible for forestry in England and Scotland, evidence exists that investments in green space have a positive impact on constituent components such as job creation, new business start-ups and private investment.
“These impacts could consequently increase local gross value added,” it says.
The research report adds that improving the aesthetic quality of a place increases land and property prices.
“Property price increases may benefit local economies in indirect ways. They can encourage further property development in an area and increase local council tax receipts as a result.
“The estimated impacts are necessarily case and location specific and have a wide range of values. Having well-managed green space nearby was found to result in average property premiums of 2.6% to 11.3%.”
One industry observer says that having green spaces within the workplace boosts productivity.
“Working in an environment where there are open green spaces provides a sense of calm and improves worker productive,” he says.
He adds that having green spaces in urban areas also boost tourism.
“Public parks, gardens or civic areas are always popular tourist attraction sites. The pull of these places will certainly add to the country’s tourism income.”
According to Pemandu’s annual reports in 2010, Kuala Lumpur had 12 sq m of green area per capita. However, in the 2013 annual report, it was stated that there were about 11 sq m of green space per person.
There have been many protests against development encroaching on green space over the years. Among them are Bukit Gasing, Old Klang Road, Bangsar, more recently Taman Sri Segambut and Taman Rimba Kiara in Taman Tun Dr Ismail (TTDI).
Earlier this month, it was reported that a group of residents lodged a report against DBKL with the anti-graft agency over the sale of reserved land in Bandar Tun Razak, Cheras for the construction of a high-rise residence.
They alleged possible foul play in the acquisition and sale of the land that was reserved for a football field. The football field was gazetted as a reserved land for public use on Nov 24, 2005 and the title was changed on Dec 22 last year.
However, an application for a proposed high-rise residential project was submitted to KL City Hall last year, which was later approved with condition later in the year.
According to an industry expert, a piece of land that is already gazetted can still be subsequently modified.
“Yes, but it’s a tedious process. You have to inform the public that it has to be changed. There may be public participations and rejections.
“However, it’s up to the local authority to decide whether to accept the rejections or not.”
It was also recently reported that TTDI residents had resorted to taking legal action against City Hall to protect Taman Rimba Kiara against any proposed development.
There are plans to build eight blocks of between 42 and 54-storey high-end serviced apartments, while an additional 29-storey block comprising 350 units of affordable housing will be allocated to the TTDI longhouse residents.
The development includes the construction of a six-lane highway and a flyover to accommodate the massive growth in population density from 74 to 979 people per acre.
Based on reports, City Hall and the Wilayah Land Office have yet to gazette the whole of Bukit Kiara (comprising Taman Rimba Kiara, Taman Lembah Kiara and the hills of Bukit Kiara) as a green lung.
City Hall is guided by its Structure Plan and Draft Local Plan.
The current Kuala Lumpur City Structure Plan, gazetted in 2004, details the goals, strategies and planning policies leading the city to world class status by 2020.
The Local Plan, which outlines the implementation plan to achieve the structure plan, is in the process of being gazetted.
Referring to the Taman Rimba Kiara land, a property expert points out that once a plan has been prepared, it should be gazetted “as soon as possible”.
“Most local authorities will usually get it gazetted as soon as it has been accepted by the state planning committee, because it will help them to manage and control the development within the area.”
He says there is no reason for delay if it has been challenged in court.
“What’s the time-frame for it to remain ungazetted? That’s for the court to interpret, so it’s subject to interpretation because the plan is usually revised every five years.
“So you cannot keep it for too long. In a lot of states, it can be gazetted within a year.”
However, there is often the argument that once a piece of land has been gazetted, it makes it harder to develop the city.
“The complaint is that the plan is very strict, so there’s not enough room to manoeuvre for housing, for public needs, that the plan did not consider market value.
“But that’s exactly what planning is about. Planning is market intervention for the benefit of society.”
Malaysian Institute of Planners president Ihsan Zainal Mokhtar (pic) says City Hall is doing the best that it can.
“About 90% of the developments in Kuala Lumpur are under its purview. No development can take place without any planning permission from them.
“When we draw up a plan, we have to take into account public interest, what’s good for the community.”
Malaysia was among many countries that adopted the New Urban Agenda (NUA) at the United Nations Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development (Habitat III) in Quito, Ecuador, on Oct 20 last year.
The NUA is a framework that lays out how cities should be planned and managed to best promote sustainable urbanisation.
According to Ihsan, gone are the days when the government looked at city planning from the perspective of “just providing homes and jobs”.
“About 70% of the world’s population now is urban. We’re reaching towards that. You cannot treat urban areas like how you used to treat them, merely as a place to stay and a place to get a job.
“Now, you have to treat urban areas as a place where you live. You have to ensure that the environment is sustainable, the water is clean, that life is not pressured, that the homeless are taken care of. It’s now the new millennia’s human settlement.”