GEORGE TOWN: Netizens and heritage lovers have taken to social media to voice their outrage over the demolition of the ancillary buildings of Runnymede in Jalan Sultan Ahmad Shah.
On the Penang Heritage Trust (PHT) public Facebook group, many have been writing against the demolition that took place several days ago and photos of the flattened buildings are being regularly shared.
George Town Heritage Action (GTHA) co-founder Mark Lay asked on Facebook if Penang Island City Council (MBPP) had done any research on the buildings.
“The first Google search result on ‘Runnymede Raffles’ is a detailed study of Runnymede and its links to Stamford Raffles,” Lay wrote on the GTHA page yesterday.
Tanjong PKR branch chief Ng Chek Siang said in a press statement that MBPP mayor Datuk Patahiyah Ismail should be held accountable for the “discreet” demolition of the colonial buildings.
“The council website states that the planning permission had been cancelled as of Nov 24, 2015, yet the demolitions were carried out using permits approved 17 years ago.
“Historically, the property was handed to the Malaysian government for a token sum of RM1 and renamed Wisma Persekutuan. It should have been the pride of Penang and not left to rot or sold to private developers for a profit,” said Ng in a statement yesterday (Feb 12).
Ng also said the developer for the proposed hotel, office tower and apartment block “should never have had the privilege to lay hands on this government property”.
“It is a given that this property belongs to the people of Penang and is not in the hands of private developers. Who sold Runnymede to the developer?
“What is done is done and may not be undone, but MBPP must explain the demolition,” he added.
According to the book Streets of George Town, the original Runnymede was a brick bungalow that served as Sir Stamford Raffles’ residence when he came to Penang in 1805 to be the assistant secretary to the governor.
When contacted, a spokesperson from the developer confirmed that the demolition was done in accordance with the development order.
Meanwhile, Local Government Committee chairman Chow Kon Yeow expressed his concern over cancelling old planning permissions under the Town and Country Planning Act 1976 in the name of public interest.
“That is a valid planning permission. In the Boustead case, we faced a RM50mil compensation but we negotiated it down to RM20mil. Are we willing to take the same risk again?” Chow told a press conference at his Chinese New Year open house in Burma Road yesterday.
It was reported on Oct 25, 2011 that the Penang government had to pay RM20mil to Boustead Holdings as compensation for scaling down the height of its proposed hotel (Royale Bintang Hotel) here.
Historian: Raffles built Runnymede in 1808