Gazetting KL City Plan: A town planner’s perspective

Kuala Lumpur

Veteran town planner Datuk P. Gunasilan takes Federal Territories Minister Khalid Samad to task for gazetting the wrong local plan.

A fellow of the Malaysian Institute of Planners, this is Gunasilan’s take:

At a recent dialogue session between Taman Tun Dr Ismail residents and Federal Territories Minister Khalid Samad, the attendees were informed the KL City Plan has been gazetted.

However, this was neither the 2008 draft local plan nor the 2013 revised plan but the gazetted local plan was a “2015” version.

This 2015 plan is a combination of the revised plan of 2013 with addendum of all the deviations to the earlier draft.

That means City Hall’s town planners updated the draft local plan by including changes on the instructions of the former Federal Territories Minister. These include change in land use and increase in densities and plot ratios.

We were told City Hall’s planners stopped updating the draft plan after 2015 as the former minister had signalled his intention not to gazette it (notwithstanding that development orders continued to be issued, deviating from the 2015 draft).

City Hall
City Hall held a series of workshops and dialogue sessions in 2010 to finalise the draft local plan.

Was this legal and the right thing to do – considering these changes resulted in a tremendous impact on the draft local plan?

Looking at the Federal Territory Planning Act 1982, the provisions for the alteration, repeal and replacement of local plans lie in Section 17.

17.  (1) The Commissioner may at any time make proposals for the alteration, addition, revision, repeal or replacement in whole or in part of a local plan.

(2) Without prejudice to subsection (1), the Commissioner shall if the Minister gives him a direction in that behalf in respect of a local plan, as soon as practicable prepare proposals of a kind specified in the direction, being proposals for the alteration, addition, revision, repeal or replacement in whole or in part of the local plan.

(3) Subsection 13(6) and sections 14, 15 and 16 shall apply in relation to the making of proposals for the alteration, addition, revision, repeal or replacement in whole or in part of a local plan.

Section 16, meanwhile, concerns the adoption of the local plan:

13. (1) After the expiry of the period afforded for making objections to or representations in respect of a draft local plan or ,if such objections or representations have been duly made during that period after considering the objections or representations, the Commissioner may with the approval of the Minister, subject to subsection (2) adopt the plan either as originally prepared or as modified so as to take account of the objections or representations or for any matters arising there from, and thereupon the plan shall come into effect.

(2) The Commissioner shall cause the fact of his adoption of a draft local plan to be published in the Gazette and in such local newspapers as the Commissioner may determine, and of the place where the copies of such plan may be inspected and where copies may be purchased on payment of the prescribed fee

The provisions in Section 17 clearly state the minister has the power to make proposals for alteration, addition, revision, repeal and replacement but he has to comply with Section 16 if it relates to the public.

It is necessary to look into these aspects carefully and proceed accordingly.

As a practising town planner with 30 years’ experience, I have spent most of my service in government in the implementation of the Federal Town and Country Planning Act, preparation of structure plans, and some local plans.

The KL local plan was prepared very painstakingly and took a long time for detailed studies in terms of form and content.

The 2008 draft local plan was exhibited and called for representations and objections. Representations were made and substantial objections received. After almost two years of hearings and inquiries and panel discussions, it was finally approved to be gazetted in 2013. This draft local plan had gone through the process and procedures.

The “2015 version” that was gazetted did not undergo such processes and procedures and hence its gazettement would appear to have contravened the provisions of the Federal Territory Planning Act 1982.

As such, the minister can only gazette the Draft City Plan of 2013. This is the legal local plan that went through the processes and procedures of the Federal Territory Planning Act. He has to adopt (gazette) it, and once that is done, the 2013 City Plan would be legally binding.

If he wants to make alterations, additions, revisions, repeals and replacements, he can at this stage direct the Commissioner to add these into the local plan and that amended plan has to go through the mandatory process in strict adherence as spelt out in Section 17(3), i.e. following Subsection 13(6) and Sections 14, 15 and 16 all over again.

The minister has done the right thing in gazetting the local plan, but it is the wrong plan!

I am also concerned about the gazetted 2015 plan. The minister says he included all the changes made until 2015. Who vetted and approved it?

P. Gunasilan
Gunasilan wonders who vetted and approved the gazetted 2015 plan.

Was there an independent panel, committee or independent party to check on the changes? Did it include only the approvals given for planning permission, or did it include other changes in terms of land use, zoning, densities and plot ratios?

If there had been no independent panel, then I believe KL residents can take it up and show that there was partiality in making the changes.

My suggestion to the minister is not to wait for 2020. Go for a new local plan once again. In the meantime, the planning control can be based on the gazetted Structure Plan of KL which is legal and provided for.

It should be noted that Bukit Kiara and Taman Rimba Kiara were gazetted via the structure plan as a city park. The Structure Plan is binding – it has never been withdrawn or degazetted – and therefore the whole process of alienation and approval of the controversial Taman Rimba Kiara development project is illegal.

The Federal Territory Planning Act, 1982

I recommend to review this Act to control the power of the Commissioner and the minister. Form an appeals board to listen to appeals from aggrieved parties on all aspects of planning. The Town and Country Planning Act 1976 has such provisions. The appeals boards in Selangor and Penang are functioning and serving well.

In the appeals board, only professionals (and no politicians) are appointed. The chairman should be a judge or retired judge. With an appeals board in place, the people would have a chance to represent their views and objections to a very independent board.

With regards to starting afresh with the successor (post-2020) local plan, City Hall should only hire external consultant town planner who do not submit plans in Kuala Lumpur.

This helps to promote objectivity and impartiality. The same principle should apply in choosing the appeals board members.

I hope the authorities look into my suggestions in good faith.”