BALIK PULAU: While residents in Balik Pulau are unhappy with a new road being built, it has been revealed that there’s actually a proposal to set up a new township on this last hinterland of the island.
A developer from Kuala Lumpur has promised farmers a payout of at least RM120mil to turn a strip of rural land on western Penang island into a township with nearly 600 houses, four blocks of high-rise buildings and two blocks of shoplots on top of community amenities.
It wants to develop 36ha of oil palm estates along which will soon be a new road for which the Rural Development Ministry is spending RM53mil to build.
When the road project was announced by the federal government last mid-December, many Balik Pulau residents were left wondering why the 10.2km road was needed along 1,000ha of oil palm land, shrimp ponds and mangroves, with hardly anyone living there.
Even the state government is left dumbfounded and completely unaware of plans to develop this countryside.
“This is something new to me. I don’t remember ever seeing a proposal to develop that area or to convert the land use.
“We have got to find out what is being planned. Is the ministry building that road for the developer?
“At first, we were unhappy that the road is being built right beside the mangrove swamp and we wanted another alignment away from it.
“And now we find out a developer has plans to build a township there.
“We will find out what is going on,” state Environment Committee chairman Phee Boon Poh told The Star, stressing that the road was a federal project and the state was kept in the loop about it on a “for-your-info” basis.
In a filing to Bursa Malaysia on Jan 30, the public-listed developer announced that it has entered into a joint-venture development agreement with Koperasi Kampung Melayu Balik Pulau Berhad to build 276 terraced houses, 214 semi-detached houses, 91 double-storey bungalows, two 16-storey blocks of condominiums, two 16-storey blocks of low-cost flats, two blocks of retail shoplots, a school, mosque, community hall and other public amenities on land which the co-op owns.
The 36ha is specified as being on Lots 254, 804 and 803 of the area.
A check with the Malaysia Co-operative Societies Commission database shows that the co-op exists though no other information on its members are available.
The developer guarantees in writing that the co-op will earn RM120mil, out of which RM45mil will be in cash payouts and the remaining will be given in the form of units built on the land.
It will be an 80-20 joint venture between the developer and the co-op, respectively.
The developer informed Bursa Malaysia that the gross development value of the joint venture deal is RM600mil.
In its Bursa Malaysia filing, the developer specified that the deal is conditional upon the successful extension of the land lease to 99 years, re-zoning of the land use category, and approval of all relevant building plans. The current status of the land is unclear.
For the first time since Penang was founded in 1786, the island’s rustic western coastline will get a two-way tarred road stretching almost the entire north-south length, from Bagan Sungai Pinang to Pulau Betong.
The road was first proposed by the federal government in 2016 and initially, the state Town and Country Planning Department requested the Public Works Department to apply for planning permission from Penang Island City Council.
The initial budget for the project was RM78mil and after the general election, the new government renegotiated with contractors and brought the price down to RM53mil.
Earlier, state Works Committee chairman Zairil Khir Johari said that the state waived the planning permission requirement after being convinced that the footprint of the road, which will be built along an existing dirt trail that villagers have used for decades, would be small.
The road construction began in December.