The Housing and Local Government Ministry will launch the National Physical Plan tomorrow in Penang. This national blueprint for land use, development and conservation maps out a high-speed rail system and focused development in four city areas, reports WONG LI ZA.
IMAGINE zooming from Kuala Lumpur to Penang in a high-speed train in under two hours.
Picture the congested Pekeliling Flats area transformed into spacious living quarters with well-maintained parks and properly-planned school compounds.
These are just two recommendations under the new National Physical Plan (NPP), a national blueprint for spatial planning in Peninsular Malaysia.
The NPP’s goal is to establish an efficient, fair and sustainable use of land and natural resources towards achieving developed nation status by 2020 and into the era of knowledge and performance-based economy.
“The Plan was prepared to show the direction of land use in terms of development of cities and conservation of land, which includes agriculture land, forest and water bodies, for sustainable development,” explained Siow Suan Neo, senior town planner in the National Physical Plan Division, Federal Department of Town and Country Planning.
The NPP coordinates the various land use activities needed by different sectors in the country to see the full picture of land use in Peninsular Malaysia.
The NPP was approved both by the Cabinet on April 20 this year and the National Physical Planning Council chaired by the Prime Minister on April 26.
The Town and Country Planning Act 1976 (Amendment) 2001 provides the legal basis for the preparation of the NPP.
Therefore, the plan is technically legally binding and Federal and State agencies will be responsible for implementing the policies.
However, Mohd Jaafar Mohd Atan, director of the NPP Division, said implementation will not be by coercion but more a collaborative effort by stakeholders of the NPP.
“The Plan carves the framework but it is not going to tie down the state Governments. However, they have to stay within the framework,” he said.
“We also want to stress that the NPP affects various ministries and not just the Town and Country Planning Department,” he added.
The Housing and Local Government Ministry through the Department of Town and Country Planning is responsible for monitoring the plan’s implementation and to review it every five years.
The NPP was prepared in the context of knowing that Peninsular Malaysia’s population will increase by 8mil from 18.5mil in 2000 to 26.8mil in 2020.
However, according to the Plan, the estimated urban land required for this population expansion is still relatively small, which means urban development does not have to encroach into prime agricultural areas, environmentally sensitive areas or involve extensive cutting of hills and coastal reclamation.
“We can still cope by using idle land and consolidating urban development in existing built-up areas,” stressed Siow.
In addition, the NPP also proposes urban regeneration programmes.
“Urban renewal is about trying to change over-congested or dilapidated living environments into an area with enough living space, place to do business, better amenities and accessible transportation,” she said, citing Pekeliling Flats and Jalan Cochrane as two examples of such areas.
One main thrust of the NPP is the “Selective Concentration” Development Strategy, which is the concentration of urban development in selected cities with high growth potential and that can offer a high quality of living environment.
This recommendation is meant to avoid random spread of investment to areas with little growth potential that will result in a net loss for the country in terms of finance and resources.
“We want to focus on the development of these cities, how they grow and are managed so that investors want to come in to locate their corporate offices, factories and homes,” said Siow.
The four main cities, or conurbations, identified are Kuala Lumpur or the National Growth Conurbation, which spans KL, Putrajaya, Shah Alam, Klang, Nilai and Seremban) and three Regional Growth Conurbations which are George Town (covering Penang, southern Kedah and northern Perak), Johor Baru and Kuantan (which includes southern Terengganu). (See graphics)
(“Conurbation” is a city or metropolis and the towns and cities around it that form a single closely-linked economic and functional unit.)
The targeted population growth for these conurbations by 2020 is 8.5mil for Kuala Lumpur, 2.4mil for George Town, 1.8mil for Johor Baru and 0.6mil for Kuantan.
To cope with this population growth and as part of effective land use planning, the NPP recommends an integrated national transportation system for better movement of people and goods.
The system includes building a better expressway system (highways, federal and state roads), airports, seaports and high-speed rail as the core of the system supported by a network of roads.
Since independence, Peninsular Malaysia has constructed 65,000km of roads but only 250km of rail tracks, which includes the ERL, Monorail and LRT systems.
“There are limited highways that can be built now, so the best way is a rail system,” said Mohd Jaafar.
Part of the Plan’s long-term commitment is to develop 300kph trains in a system linking all state capitals. Main conurbations should also have their own light and mass rail transit systems. Railway stations will then become the focal points of urban life and activity.
“We are also proposing a single agency to coordinate the integration of the transportation system,” added Mohd Jaafar.
The NPP also upholds the conservation of prime agricultural areas (PAA) to support sustainable agricultural development, food security and maximising rural income through modernisation and rationalisation of farm units.
It recommends the conservation of natural resources and environmentally sensitive areas (ESA) whereby the present forest areas, about 44.4% of total peninsula land, shall at least be retained, if not increased.
The plan also pushes for the establishment of the Central Forest Spine (CFS) to form the backbone of the ESA network linkages.
Its policies also protect sensitive coastal areas and ecosystems.
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