THE National Physical Planning Council can issue a directive to all state governments and local councils to create zones for places of worship in the local plan.
The move has to be aligned with inventory guidelines to rezone an area, and must correspond with state government and local government policies, said Petaling Jaya City councillor Derek Fernandez.
Fernandez, who is the legal expert on local government matters, said this at the Petaling Jaya City Council full board meeting.
“Once it is in the local plan, the government has to perform its duty to allocate and identify specific zones as places of worship.
“By doing so, any individual, committee or developer will not be able to remove this protection as they must maintain the area as per the local plan.
“If an area is zoned as a place of worship, regardless of who owns the land, then it must be treated as a place of worship.
“You cannot develop a condominium on a land that has been zoned for worship purposes,” he said.
Fernandez said any changes to a local plan would have to go through the relevant procedures stipulated under the Town and Country Planning Act 1976. One of it requires the local authority to call for public hearing before a rezoning can be done.
“It does not matter if these places of worship are on state or private land, the local plan will protect these places and everyone will be clear when a land transaction takes place.
“The land must only be used to build a house of worship,” said Fernandez adding that the Subang Jaya Municipal Council (MPSJ) could amend its local plan to protect the Seafield Sri Maha Mariamman Temple in light of the recent issue at the temple.
MPSJ, he said, could make proposals at any time to rezone an area.
At the meeting, Fernandez said Petaling Jaya had in recent years carried out rezoning under the local plan.
He gave Petaling Jaya Old Town as an example where residential units used as places of worship for decades were recently rezoned as places of worship.
“I suggest a task force be created in Selangor to identify all temples, and zone these areas accordingly.
“It does not matter if the land is a privately-owned. The local council can still rezone the land for religious or other purposes,” he said.