PENANG: While heritage advocates welcome the proposed amendments to the Town and Country Planning Act 1976, building owners and ratepayers here feel that some amendments should be reconsidered.
Penang Ratepayers Association chairman Datuk Eddy Choong said the Act should only be implemented in selected areas after considering the economic and conservation viewpoints.
Heritage must be defined properly. We should not go overboard by merely looking at the aesthetic value of a building but also its historical significance and cultural value, he said yesterday.
He added that the proposed 400ha heritage conservation zone in George Town showed it was impractical to gazette a heritage zone over such a vast area, as it would restrict development in the city.
On Saturday, Housing and Local Government Minister Datuk Seri Ong Ka Ting announced that owners of heritage buildings and sites would get tax deductions and financial aid from the Government following proposed amendments to the Act.
The amendments will also see the setting up of a fund and board to assist the Government in preserving old buildings and sites.
Kampung Kolam assemblyman Lim Gim Soon, whose constituency in inner George Town has over 1,000 pre-war buildings, said property owners felt the RM1mil fine or five years jail for those who broke the laws on the preservation and protection of heritage buildings and sites were too stiff and rigid.
Pengkalan Kota assemblyman Lee Hack Teik, who described the proposed financial aid and tax deductions as timely, said:
My constituency has about 2,000 pre-war buildings and some houses are in deplorable condition because there are no incentives for owners to repair them.
Penang Heritage Trust (PHT) president Dr Choong Sim Poey said the proposed fine was appropriate and the incentives were also given in most countries that recognised the value of heritage.
Heritage advocate Khoo Salma Nasution said the amendments showed a political will to make heritage conservation a basis of civic and cultural education for the future generations.
In Petaling Jaya, heritage organisation Badan Warisan Malaysia president Tan Sri Ahmad Sarji Abdul Hamid, who welcomed the amendments, said:
In the last few years, we have been sending memorandums to the authorities recommending such tax incentives for consideration in the Budget.
He added that the proposed National Heritage Board should also have members from non-governmental organisations.
Cheng Hoon Teng Temple restoration project co-ordinator Josephine Chua said the proposed amendment would encourage owners in Malacca to preserve their buildings.