PLANS to demolish pre-war houses along the main road of Kampung Kepayang near Ipoh, Perak to facilitate a road expansion project has yet to materialise despite being announced over 10 years ago.
The proposed project along the Federal Route 1 was reported in The Star titled “Flood of nostalgia as news of demolition comes out” on Nov 11, 2011.
It was reported that the Batu Gajah District Council decided to tear down one row of shophouses on both sides of the trunk road due to their sorry state.
The demolition of the buildings is deemed necessary also to expand the federal route known also as Jalan Persekutuan.
The road project is to run between Simpang Pulai and Gopeng.
Located 13km south of Ipoh, the Kampung Kepayang shophouses, believed to have existed since the 1880s, are noted for their architectural designs and are a historical reminder of a bygone era.
Motorists driving between Ipoh city and Gopeng using the main trunk road from north to south will be able to catch sight of these shophouses.
Some of the dilapidated ones are still standing while others were demolished years ago.
Kampung Kepayang is a former tin mining area, which became a ghost town following the drop in demand for the commodity.
There were initially 75 pre-war houses but 30 have been demolished.
Currently, only seven units remain occupied while the rest are empty, rundown and overgrown with plants.
Kong Kak Sun, 55, who runs a business making generators in one of the units, said his father opened the shop more than 20 years ago.
He said a few years ago, the district council informed all unit owners about plans to demolish the shophouses to enable a road expansion project.
“We have not been informed of any new developments, so for the moment, it is business as usual,” he added.
Ng Sen Ngow, 73, who makes tombstones, bought a unit in Kampung Kepayang 12 years ago.
He said if the government wanted to widen the road, it could acquire a certain portion in front of the shophouses.
Ng, who lives with his wife, however said it would not be a good idea to demolish the shophouses.
“Some of us still live here as we own the property,” he said, adding that he has not received any notice on the development from the council.
Barber R. Gnasergaran, 71, has lived in one of the shophouses for 66 years and inherited the property from his father.
He also rents a shop for his business located opposite his home.
Gnasergaran said the district council also proposed to demolish 6m of the shophouse facade to make way for parking space.
“The district council said if there was parking space, then there would be business as currently there is no space for vehicles to stop.
“However, that proposal was made about three years ago and nothing has happened,” said Gnasergaran, who has been living at the pre-war houses since he was five years old.
He said his father started the barbershop in 1950 in a rented unit while the family lived above the shop.
Some years later, the family moved to a house opposite the shop that his father invested in while continuing to run the barbershop at the rented premises.
“I still get some business from customers from nearby villages as well as regular customers who live a distance away but they still come by for a haircut.
“There is also a welder and a fertiliser shop down the road,” he added.
Batu Gajah district councillor Leong Chee Wai said the process to demolish the privately-owned pre-war buildings would take time.
“It is true that the Public Works Department (JKR) has plans to expand the road, but no specific dates have been given as to when this will happen” he added.
JKR director Hamdan Ali said the road project proposal involved upgrading the existing Jalan Persekutuan (Laluan FT 001) to four lanes.
He said the Ipoh-Kuala Lumpur road was often used by motorists coming from Kuala Lumpur and heading to Gopeng.
“Part of the road has been upgraded to four lanes but that specific stretch, where the pre-war buildings are located, has yet to be upgraded.
“Because the road expansion project has not taken place, a traffic bottleneck builds up at the pre-war shophouse stretch.
“We have submitted a proposal to upgrade the road to the Works Ministry and are still awaiting approval,” he said.
He said the project, which was listed under the 11th Malaysian Plan, was now parked under the 12th Malaysian Plan.
“Work will begin once the ministry approves the project,” he added.
Many people, including tourists travel on Jalan Persekutuan from Ipoh to Gopeng to head to a few well-known tourist attractions.
Some people use this route to exit to the famous limestone caves such as Gua Tempurung and Gua Kandu.
Others head to Gopeng town to visit the Ulu Geroh Rafflesia, Gaharu Tea Valley, Gopeng Museum, as well as go for white water rafting activities along Sungai Kampar and to visit the oldest water pipe in Malaysia.
Visitors travelling to Kampar to savour its famous curry chicken bread also opt for this road.
The road also leads to the famour Kellie’s Castle in Batu Gajah.
Jalan Persekutuan is also used by motorists heading to Tapah to get to the Lata Kinjang eco-park.