PHT: Penang has to stop illegal work on heritage buildings

By MANJIT KAUR

GEORGE TOWN: It is imperative that the Penang government beefs up enforcement to ensure that heritage property owners here comply with guidelines when renovating their buildings.

Penang Heritage Trust (PHT) said the move was necessary to avoid further damage to the buildings which it claimed had reached a “critical” level.

Its president, Khoo Salma Nasution, said that although the issue was a long-standing one, it now required urgent attention as George Town had attained Unesco World Heritage listing.

She said the state government was required to prepare a special area plan to be submitted to Unesco in 2011.

“Firstly, the state needs to quickly set up a professional heritage management committee within the World Heritage Office.

“There are only two workers seconded to the office, excluding its head Maimunah Mohd Sharif. The people hired must be qualified and experienced in conservation works,” Khoo Salma said yesterday.

She was commenting on a newspaper report quoting Cultural Heritage Advisory Group (Chat) spokesman Janet Pillai as saying the Penang government’s lack of political will had resulted in serious destruction of architectural heritage in the inner city.

Pillai had said that some 80% of the 70-odd buildings in the Unesco World Heritage Site currently undergoing repairs and renovations had no approval from relevant authorities and were not adhering to heritage guidelines.

Penang Local Government and Traffic Management Committee chairman Chow Kon Yeow said he was aware that there were many people carrying out renovation works without approval from the Penang Municipal Council.

He appealed to heritage property owners at the site to seek planning approval from the council before carrying out any structural work.

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