Taman Rimba Kiara: Federal Court ruling sweet victory, but don’t forget longhouse residents’ wait for permanent home

This morning’s decision by the Federal Court to uphold the Court of Appeal’s ruling to quash a development order issued by Kuala Lumpur City Hall for the development of a high-end, high-rise condominium project in Taman Rimba Kiara is a major relief for all Taman Tun Dr Ismail (TTDI) residents.

It is also a landmark case for the development of all open spaces in the country – that the local council cannot simply issue permits/development orders without consulting the nearby residents/stakeholders, and that the development permit should be in line with the local structure plan.

If the structure plan denotes a particular area as an open space – the local authorities cannot change the status at will unless they have very good reasons to do so.

A strong message has also been sent to would-be-developers (with deep pockets) that they must respect the local structure plan and not submit development plans that are not consistent with the local plan.

To recap, Taman Rimba Kiara is a park located at the base of Bukit Kiara in TTDI, Kuala Lumpur.

TTDI residents had, as far as 2016, objected vehemently to the construction of eight blocks of high-rise luxurious condominiums at the park, which is a public open space.

In August 2016, the Kuala Lumpur mayor issued a notice of a hearing under Rule 5 of the Planning Rules 1970 for the development. Although residents had objected to the proposed development, the mayor later issued a development order in July 2017. No reasons for the approval were given to those who had objected to the project.

Subsequently, in 2017, Taman Tun Dr Ismail residents filed a judicial review against City Hall and the mayor in a bid to quash the development order. The residents lost the case at the High Court after the court ruled there were no elements of illegality in the issuance of the development order.

Undeterred, the residents filed an appeal with the Court of Appeal in 2018. In 2021, the Court of Appeal overruled the High Court’s decision, which meant that the development order was effectively quashed.

The authorities and the developer, however, did not give up, and filed an appeal with the Federal Court to reinstate the development order.

Had the TTDI residents lost the case today, it would have meant that the floodgates would be open for more residential and commercial development in Bukit Kiara, and it would be just a matter of time before the whole of Bukit Kiara would be developed – depriving the rakyat of walking, cycling, or hiking up our favourite hill.

The Federal Court’s ruling today comes as sweet victory for the rakyat and the protection of green spaces. Our children and their children can continue to enjoy Bukit Kiara as we are doing now.

This whole episode is an excellent example of how effective local community mobilisation efforts can bring lasting generational impact.

All these would not have been possible without the rock-solid support of Segambut MP Hannah Yeoh and the coordinating team led by Leon Koay, Abdul Hafiz Abu Bakar, Clinton Ang, and many more dedicated and passionate individuals/heroes.

The battle is however, not over, as one issue still remains.

It should be noted that besides the eight blocks of high-rise condominiums, the proposed development in Bukit Kiara was also meant to resolve the problem faced by long-time longhouse residents in the area, with the construction of a 29-storey, affordable apartments for these residents.

The housing needs of the residents of the longhouses in Bukit Kiara still need to be addressed, as they have waited for over 40 years to get proper housing.

Hopefully, the unthinkable will not happen, with the project developer submitting a fresh application for a development order.

Kuala Lumpur City Hall should put its foot down, and remind would-be-developers not to try their luck by submitting a new development plan.

This is the personal opinion of the writer and does not necessarily represent the views of Twentytwo13.

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