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Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Penang hotel projects on, Unesco guidelines awaited

The four hotel development projects on Penang island, which have been in question for allegedly contravening height restrictions in George Town's heritage zone, have not been scrapped.

Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng yesterday said the state authorities and affected developers are awaiting guidelines from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco) on whether any changes should be made to the project plans.

"The developers fully understand that legally, the projects can still proceed, although Unesco needs to state if any modifications are needed. Penang needs these projects (investments) to offset the oncoming economic recession," he told a press conference at his office in George Town.

Lim said the four project developers - Boustead Holdings Sdn Bhd, Asia Global Business Sdn Bhd, E & O Bhd and the Low Yat Group - were unhappy when they heard in November that George Town's place on Unesco's World Heritage List was in jeo-pardy due to their projects.

The four projects were approved before George Town was inscribed on the heritage list. Two are AGB's Rice Miller boutique hotel in Weld Quay and the Boustead Royale Bintang Hotel project behind the General Post Office in Lebuh Downing, both lying in the heritage core zone.
The other two are E & O Hotel's extension and a 23-storey hotel in Jalan Sultan Ahmad Shah by the Low Yat Group in the buffer zone, both of which will be 84.4m high.

The World Heritage Committee (which administers Unesco's World Heritage programme) stipulates in its guidelines that a maximum height of 18m (or roughly five storeys) have been set for buildings on the island's heritage core and buffer zones.

"Since the approval for all four projects were based on Unesco's guidelines," noted Lim, "either all four projects stay or none at all".

Several property developers in Penang have already announced plans to defer their projects in the state, in the face of uncertain economic times.

E & O Bhd last month announced that it is reviewing its property development launches amid the current economic slowdown, and will delay the launch of the first phase of the Seri Tanjung Pinang condominiums in Penang.

The first phase was to have been launched during the company's current fiscal year ending March 31 2009. The new targeted launch date has since been pushed to the third quarter of next year.

Hunza Properties Bhd is also delaying the construction of its Gurney Paragon shopping mall in Pulau Tikus, while awaiting prices of construction costs and material prices to come down.

By Business Times (by Marina Emmanuel)

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