GEORGE TOWN: The state government has finally bowed to public pressure.
It agreed to relocate the proposed transport hub away from the Sia Boey (old Prangin market) archaeology site after several months of standoff with the heritage conservationists.
State Local Government and Traffic Management Committee chairman Chow Kon Yeow confirms that the route has been realigned and the hub will now be located at an open air car park near 1st Avenue Mall.
“We have taken note of the concerns raised by heritage groups.
“We have informed the National Heritage Department which will send a report to Unesco over the proposed new site.
“It’s still too early to reveal details of the realignment. But the hub will definitely not be at Sia Boey market,” said Chow.
Earlier, heritage activists were up in arms over the proposed station at Sia Boey Market and the Prangin Canal, which they said was a major heritage site and had to be preserved.
This was following the discovery of an old canal and the foundation of a building, said to be an old police station or barracks, by archaeologists at the site in Jalan Dr Lim Chwee Leong here.
Penang Forum, a loose coalition of non-political civil society groups, then urged the state government not to commit to the project delivery partners of the Penang Transport Master Plan (PTMP) until Unesco advisers had reviewed the site of the hub, particularly with regard to the Sia Boey archaeology site near Komtar.
Penang Forum member Dr Lim Mah Hui came under fire from the state government for writing a letter to Unesco to highlight the potential harm that the PTMP may cause to George Town’s heritage site.
The state had said that without the interchange train station at Sia Boey, plans to revitalise the 40-year-old Komtar may be impeded.
SRS Consortium, the project delivery partners of PTMP, said the exterior of the station would follow the style of old buildings near it, some of which were built in the late 1880s using architectural form known as the Straits Eclectic Style.
Its project director Szeto Wai Leong said they would do their best to make sure the station blends in well with George Town’s cityscape.
“It also won’t be high. At the most, just half-a-storey higher than the prewar houses near it,” he said.
Szeto said his team and Penang Development Corporation had to wait for Universiti Sains Malaysia to finish its archeological report before making the decision.
“After the findings, which confirmed the historical values, we decided to preserve the canal and old market grounds,” he said, adding that the decision was made last November.