Last Updated: 6:32pm, Jun 30, 2014
GEORGE TOWN (June 30): Neighbours of an illegally demolished pre-colonial bungalow that once belonged to 19th century tycoon Khaw Sim Bee have welcomed the government’s move to require the party responsible to rebuild the structure. During a session on June 25 to hear residents’ feedback on a new high-rise condominium project planned on the same site, the Penang Island Municipal Council (MPPP) had denied that the order issued to developer Klassik Tropika Sdn Bhd has been rescinded. MPPP president Datuk Patahiyah Ismail had said the council’s lawyers are engaged in the matter. She stressed that if the MPPP or State Planning Committee were to withdraw the order it would set a dangerous precedent. She also cautioned that as land and property prices increase, more illegal demolitions are bound to take place. Resident Yan Lee, who is also an advisor for the Penang Citizens Chant Group (Chant), today commented that having the pre-colonial building restored in its original scale and position is important. “It would work as a deterrent against similar acts in the future,” he said when contacted. MPPP had issued an order to Klassik Tropika, a subsidiary of Mah Sing Bhd, to rebuild the double-storey mansion at 20 Pykett Avenue here on Jan 11, 2011. On Jan 17, 2011, the George Town magistrate's court fined the company just RM6,000 for the illegal demolition. The building was originally owned by Khaw Bian Cheng Sdn Bhd, a company connected to Sim Bee, a magnate who became governor of Phuket in the 1890s. Its demolition on July 26, 2010, elicited an outcry from heritage activists and nearby residents. Klassik Tropika has maintained that before the company bought the land in 2009, it had obtained confirmation from the MPPP that the building was not identified as a heritage structure. Traffic congestion concern over high-density project The company submitted a proposal to the MPPP on Oct 6, 2010, for an apartment complex on the site with a five-storey podium and four high-rise towers. It is understood that the current proposal is for a six-storey podium and two blocks of 24 and 18-storey apartments comprising 290 units. Yan Lee also emphasised other anxieties that the residents have on the new project, as most buildings in the area are only two-storey high. There are concerns about impact to traffic and parking by a high-density project, bearing in mind that there are three schools within the vicinity. This is not the first historic building related to Sim Bee, who was also Phuket governor, that has been wrecked with such controversy. Previously, another developer who in 1993 demolished a heritage bungalow called Asdang House - better known as Metropole Hotel - at Jalan Sultan Ahmad Shah, belonging to Sim Bee's family, was fined RM50,000 and ordered to rebuild the facade of the old bungalow.
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