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Saturday, June 20, 2009

Planning a better city with the people

For cities to thrive and stay relevant, it is important to have in place well thought out and clearly defined vision and master planning. And these need to be communicated to the local population to ensure they participate in the process of city building.

It is imperative for the local administration to engage with the local population and other stakeholders so that they can communicate their needs and ideas on the important aspects that should be included in a city’s planning.

The local dwellers and stakeholders should be invited to contribute their views before decisions on a city’s future are made.

The local government should seek public opinion and consensus by way of public display of draft local and state structure plans. Any concerns should be properly addressed before the plans are gazetted into law.

In many parts of the world, including Australia, residents are invited to sit on the planning committee for their area so that they have a hand in deciding what development can and cannot take place there.

At the end of the day, all stakeholders (including the local population, property owners, business operators and workers) should feel comfortable with the local structure plans and projects, and thus give their blessings.

Most of the time, plans that have consensus support and are for the good of the local community and general population, will work out quite well.

In the case of George Town, although the Local Plan had been completed some time back, it has yet to go on public display although this was initially scheduled for late last year. It is understood that the plan is still being amended and the public has not been consulted yet.

With George Town literally bursting at its seams with perpetual traffic jams, an inefficient public transport system and a dire need for transparent and workable redevelopment plans for the inner city and the peripherals, the sooner the local plan goes on public display, the better it is for the plan to adequately address the people’s concerns and work successfully.

To ensure the successful implementation of the local plan that has been gazetted into law, the local administration should be decisive and proactive in its implementation. It should also define the perimeters of development plans, including density, plot ratio, project type and the maximum height for buildings, among other things.

Indecisiveness or wavering on the part of the local administration will give rise to exploitation by some interest groups and other stakeholders may refuse to take part in the implementation process.

To ensure that this does not happen, the administration should be transparent. It must update people on any changes in the plans and seek their views before going ahead.

As land matters are under the purview of the state governments and the local authorities, the local administration has the full authority to come out with their own vision on how their cities should be developed and this includes housing projects, community amenities and infrastructure projects.

The growing population and rural-to-urban migration are some of the contributory factors that are straining cities around the world, and planners should be clear about where the city is heading.

Cities need a raison d’etre, or reason for being, to know specifically how they can be shaped in the future. Most Malaysian cities have not started out with clearly defined visions and master plans. Instead, they have sprung from the people’s needs and economic activities.

With the rapidly changing environment and lifestyles, it is perhaps time for our cities to re-invent and create niches for themselves to ensure greater comfort for city folks and to attract more visitors. There should be a clear understanding on how the city’s needs can be addressed as the population grows and the people’s requirements shift.

Well-planned infrastructure, especially a well-integrated and complementary public transport system and good real estate projects, will add value to the living environment and quality of life. The participation and cooperation of the private sector is paramount to the success of these initiatives.

By adopting a new paradigm of trust and transparency, coupled with clearly defined vision and direction on the part of the local government, industry players will be encouraged to support and participate in these projects.

As in all things, cities will grow old and decay, and it is important to inject new features and redevelopment plans to revitalise the cities and ensure that they move with the times.

On this score, Kuala Lumpur and Penang both have some common traits in that they need to revitalise and redevelop the older parts of their inner cities to inject more life and vibrance, especially during after-office hours.

Inner-city living will become trendy again if the local authorities encourage quality residential and commercial projects that blend in with the local environment.

● Deputy news editor Angie Ng hopes to see greener Malaysian cities through tree planting and the opening of parks to allow city folks a reprieve from the rising temperature.

By The Star (by Angie Ng)

1 comment:

Inchirieri apartamente said...

I ageed that ...
"For cities to thrive and stay relevant, it is important to have in place well thought out and clearly defined vision and master planning."