'Landscape development project' raises eyebrows at historic KK's Atkinson Tower

KOTA KINABALU: A decade after Kota Kinabalu city folks fought against high-rise development around the Atkinson Memorial Clock Tower, a proposed "landscape development plan" is raising eyebrows among the people.

Though there is no official announcement of any plans for a high-rise building adjacent to the tower, local heritage conservationists are questioning an "unannounced" landscape project on the foothill of Signal Hill around the area.

Conservationist Jefferi Chang expressed his concerns if there is a bigger development plan for the area around the historic tower, which was the only precolonial structure to survive the allied bombings in World War II.

Chang said there were no details of the proposed development around the area that was once earmarked for a major commercial complex.

The latest development came following a gap of 11 years after many groups forced Kota Kinabalu City Hall to stop an approval to build a 16-storey commercial building next to the historical clock tower.

Chang said back in 2010, many people came forward to protest and save the clock tower from being overwhelmed by the proposed high-rise building which could diminish the intrinsic natural surroundings that had existed for more than 100 years.

Signal Hill Range is among the few remaining green pockets for Kota Kinabalu city that is well-known among international tourists, while the Atkinson Memorial Clock Tower is among the best top Instagram spots in the world.

"It is important to preserve the city’s tree cover and avoid uprooting more trees and replacing them with high-rise buildings and concrete paths that serve to obscure the beauty of the natural surroundings," he said.

He urged the City Hall to be transparent and inform the public of any plans for the area, especially the Sabah Town and Housing Board's plot of land, adjacent to the tower that was previously earmarked for a commercial complex.

"There is not much information and details given by the City Hall and the state government about this project, apart from the recently erected construction notice board at the site with concept design drawings," said Chang, who is a member of the SOS Save Our Open Spaces and also founder member of Sabah Heritage Society.

"Even though this project may be just a landscape upgrade at the site, there are still lots of questions that need detailed explanations.

"For example, why is there no proper information released by the City Hall? The proposed development in the past caused a huge controversy and a judicial review was filed against the development plan at that time," Chang said.

Kota Kinabalu City Hall officials did not give an immediate response to queries over the latest development plan.

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