Clock ticking on fate of historic tower

Iconic building: The Atkinson Clock Tower is the oldest standing structure in Kota Kinabalu.

Iconic building: The Atkinson Clock Tower is the oldest standing structure in Kota Kinabalu.

KOTA KINABALU: A historic clock tower, the oldest standing structure in the city, is once again at the centre of a controversy and may be relocated after approval was given to build an 18-storey hotel and shopping mall next to it.

Luyang assemblyman Hiew King Chew said City Hall was thinking about moving the 112-year-old Atkinson Clock Tower from its present location, a hill adjacent to Padang Merdeka here, although a new site has not been finalised.

“I think this is a good idea as the present site is unsuitable,” he said, adding that the clock tower has already been dwarfed by other buildings around it as the downtown area has grown over the years.

“I think having the clock tower in a place facing the sea would be ideal,” he added.

The development project was shelved six years ago amid public protests and court action.

Activists and history buffs here have expressed their disappointment after learning that City Hall had given the green light for it to be revived.

Hiew said, however, it was understandable that the Sabah Town and Housing Development Authority was keen to develop the land as it is in a prime location.

Save Open Space coordinator Jef­feri Chang said the group was surprised by the decision to approve a new plan for the 18-storey building.

He said City Hall should reassess the site as the soil structure was weak and a minor landslide in 2013 had caused fears that the clock tower might collapse.

Chang pointed out that the project could significantly affect the value of the clock tower as a heritage structure and tourist attraction.

The 15.2m tower was built in 1905 by Briton Mary Edith Atkinson in memory of her son Francis George, who died of malaria while serving in the colonial government.

Chang also said it was among the very few wooden clock towers left in the world.