Development plans endanger Georgetown's World Heritage Status

To build or not to build? Development projects in the World Heritage Site of Georgetown, Penang may conflict with the guidelines set by the world heritage committee, endangering its new status. It is important to note that Penang is now controlled by the Malaysian opposition after elections earlier this year, and so the idea that Georgetown might have to choose between losing its World Heritage Status or settling lawsuits worth millions of dollars might turn out to be a political hot potato in the near future.

Old Building
photo credit: nimbu

Heritage at stake: Unesco status or high rise dilemma for Penang
The Star, 20 November 2008

Penang wants to retain George Town’s heritage status
The Star, 20 November 2008

The state government has found itself in a catch 22 situation – jeopardise George Town’s Unesco World Heritage Site status or run the risk of being sued for hundreds of millions by developers.

The crisis centres on the building of four high-rise hotels in the heritage core and buffer zones which violate the guidelines approved by the World Heritage Committee (WHC).

Under stringent heritage guidelines sent to the committee in August 2007, a maximum height of 18m or roughly five storeys was set for new buildings in the two zones.

“The guidelines were not made widely known when they were first put in place. Only when George Town’s Unesco status was approved did we realise the guidelines,” Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng said after a dialogue session with the Heritage Steering Committee’s Advisory Panel yesterday.


Related Books:
Penang: Through Gilded Doors
Penang Sketchbook
Penang Postcard Collection: 1899-1930s
Penang Trams, Trolleybuses and Railways

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Author: Noel Tan

Dr Noel Hidalgo Tan is the Senior Specialist in Archaeology at SEAMEO-SPAFA, the Southeast Asian Regional Centre for Archaelogy and Fine Arts.

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