GEORGE TOWN: Public consultation should have been done before state land in Peel Avenue was sold to a hospital group, which now wants to build a 33-storey hotel in the neighbourhood of stately homes.
"I am not against the development. I just want to know why the state government did not hold a public consultation with residents first. It is a huge hotel.
"The residents deserve a chance to give input on what should be developed there," said Penang Gerakan acting Youth chief Jason Loo (pic) on Wednesday.
He said nearby landowners had approached him to express their fears of having such a large building – a tower with 440 rooms – in their midst.
"Now that plans have been submitted, the landowners fear that their objections will not be heeded.
"The state owns so little land on that side of the island. Couldn't something have been done on the land for the benefit of the people at large?" Loo asked.
He said although public consultation was not a legal requirement, it would have reflected the state government's respect for the people.
"Going by the book is not always the best. The administration covers itself but leaves the people feeling insecure about the future of their neighbourhood," he said.
Earlier at a press conference, Pulau Tikus assemblyman Yap Soo Huey confirmed that Island Hospital had recently applied to the Penang Island City Council (MBPP) to build medical suites, a hospital and the 33-storey hotel.
She said the objections hearing on the planning application began on Tuesday and 16 residents are taking part.
Yap said MBPP informed surrounding property owners of the plans in late July, as is required in planning applications, and she invited 13 residents for a discussion at her office on Aug 3.
"The proposed hotel is planned on the land at the corner of Peel Avenue and Perak Road," she said.
Yap urged Island Hospital to ensure that the planned hotel would not be a luxurious one.
"I welcome the proposal. Medical tourists are now booking apartments and houses in Pulau Tikus for short-term stays and this is not allowed.
"A hotel would be convenient but it must be affordable, especially because medical tourists to Penang includes patients from Kedah, Perlis and northern Perak."
The state government offered the 2.6ha land to Island Hospital in 2015 and the sale was signed last December without any public announcements. The hospital obtained a 99-year lease on the land for RM156mil.
In May, NGO Penang Citizens Awareness Chant Group revealed the deal, which sparked public concern about the absence of an open tender and public engagement.
Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng has maintained that no open tenders were called on the sale because it was treated as a foreign direct investment in a high-value industry and the state government was bound by non-disclosure agreements required by investors.
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