THE Seberang Prai City Council (MBSP) has initiated short-term measures to allow factories operating on agricultural land in Jalan Kebun Baru, Juru, on mainland Penang to apply for term licences while waiting for the land to be rezoned as industrial land.
MBSP mayor Datuk Rozali Mohamud said rezoning the land from agricultural to industrial will take time to complete pending approval by the state planning committee.
He said in the past, the area where the factories are now located, was secluded and the land was classified as an agricultural zone.
“There were many pigsties, poultries and feedmills, but with the emergence of Penang Science Park about five years ago and when the Juru Heights residential area developed, the population in the area grew.
“Since then, we started planning and initiated legal processes to convert the whole agricultural land there to industrial status, ’’ he told reporters on Saturday.
On Nov 16, an enforcement team comprising officers from MBSP, Department of Environment (DoE) and Tenaga Nasional Berhad raided three factories in Jalan Kebun Baru after suspecting them of causing pollution in Sungai Jawi nearby.
However, it is believed that there are over 10 factories there operating illegally on the land classified as for ‘Conservation, Preservation and Agriculture’ use under the Penang Structure Plan 2030 (PSP 2030).
PSP 2030 which was gazetted in October last year in line with provisions under Section 11(1) of the Town and Country Planning Act 1976 (Act 172), mapped out almost half of Juru area as agricultural land with no plans for the land to be converted for development or industrialisation.
The raid on the three factories saw MBSP issuing a total of 11 compounds and 16 notices, ranging from illegal operation to poor hygiene practices.
‘’Six compounds were issued for operating without valid licences, three for failure to retain discharge before release and two for poor cleanliness.
“As for notices, seven were issued for the factories to cease operation, seven for erection of illegal structures and two for causing public nuisance, ” Rozali said.
He added that all three factories raided were unlicensed and samples from the factories were taken by the DoE to conduct tests to determine whether they were processing scheduled wastes.
Rozali pointed out that under the Uniform Building By-Laws (UBBL) practised nationwide, there are provisions for standing illegal structures to apply.
“UBBL provides leniency to these operators without encouraging more illegal structures as those who did not apply can be compounded, ” he said.
Rozali said the council has only jurisdiction to revoke licences or haul offenders to court if they are unlicensed.
“To close down factories, court orders need to be obtained.”