Monday, November 16, 2009

Rights of Public Access to the Foreshore

According to news report, the Penang state executive council meeting this Friday will deliberate on declassifying the official minutes on the conversion of a parcel of land on the island which has become a subject of controversy.  The point of contention is whether the PDC Heritage Hotel site is consider as a foreshore land.

Foreshore is the area that is exposed to the air at low tide and underwater at high tide.  For development on coastal zone, a construction setback of 60 m is normally observed.  

Setback is a guideline to developers on how far to site permanent structures behind the shoreline in order to avoid problems with short-term coastal response and flooding problems during rough weather. 

If strictly follow the guidelines from Department of Drainage and Irrigation Circular 1987, no permanent structures should be permitted within this setback zone.

Guidelines for the width of the setback zone arise from Department of Drainage and Irrigation Circular 1987, which specifies 60m on the open coast.

The 60 m setback create a costal buffer zone that should be remain in public domain.  This coastal buffer zone effectively allow public access to the foreshore. 

The land of any development site that fail to observe this requirement should be considered as a foreshore land. Or put it in another word, the land of any development site that fall within the 60 m setback from the foreshore line is consider as a foreshore land.

Is the land of PDC Heritage Hotel site a foreshore land? This is the point of contention that need the clarification from Lim Guan Eng. Lim Guan Eng would address public concern over the possibility of our foreshore land being sold to private interests. On Oct 15,2008, in a press statement, Lim Guan Eng has promised that the state government would not follow the footstep of his predecessor in circumventing the National Land Code proviso that prohibit the conversion of foreshore land from leasehold to freehold status. Is Lim Guan Eng prepares to allow developer to do land reclamation in order to circumvent the National Land Code proviso.  Does Lim Guan Eng ever bother at all about the requirement of the law when approving the land conversion? 

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