Thursday, March 11, 2010

PJ’s illegal development

IN the first two articles about town planning, I dealt with planning that was done after Petaling Jaya (PJ) was founded. However, it is important to note that PJ was developed in 1952.

This is significant because PJ's founding clearly predates the legal provisions that the state government or local council are now using to impose planning on the city.

For example, the National Land Code 1965 and the Town and Country Planning Act 1976 were both enacted after PJ was founded. Hence, it is important to study the township's history, and understand how the township came about and the implications it has today.

The early years

The earliest available document pointing towards the existence of PJ is a 1952 map that shows designated land plots belonging to one Petaling Estate, a private limited UK-registered company. We have to acknowledge that PJ was founded by the British-controlled Federal Government of Malaya and not the Selangor government, since the Selangor government did not yet exist.

Click on thumbnails above to open images
of the PJ Gazette, article 175 of the
Federation of Malaya Government Gazette
As a result, PJ was considered part of Kuala Lumpur and was administered as a satellite township. Further proof of PJ being founded under the Kuala Lumpur administration is contained in the 1955 Federation of Malaya Government Gazette which spells out the boundaries of PJ under the district of Kuala Lumpur.

Once PJ became more developed and prosperous, it needed its own administrative centre. The founding of the PJ Town Board was done using the Town Boards Enactment in 1964. Under the Town Boards Enactment, a township is established if it is gazetted with an attached map of the plan that shows all the land plots with land title numbers.

The map is also known as a deposited plan.

As an aside, the Wikipedia entry for PJ states that it was founded on Effingham Estate. This is a factual error, as Effingham Estate is where Bandar Utama is today located. PJ started in PJ Old Town where Jalan Templer is located.

Deposited plan's validity

The Local Government Act repealed the Town Boards Enactment. This repeal is repeated in the National Land Code under the Eleventh Schedule. The question then is, is the deposited map of PJ and its gazetting as a town board still valid today?

Section 4(1) of the National Land Code states: Nothing in this Act shall affect the past operation of, or anything done under, any previous land law or, so far as they relate to land, the provisions of any other law passed before the commencement of this Act.

Section 442 of the National Land Code also states: Any areas constituted under the provisions of any previous land law... as a district, sub-district, mukim, town or village shall be deemed for the purposes of this Act to have been constituted as such pursuant to the provisions of Section 11 (of the National Land Code).

Section 11 basically provides a state government the power to declare an administrative area for a local council, similar to the declaration that was done for PJ when the town board was set up.

In essence, the deposited plan, gazetted under a previous law relating to land matters that predates the National Land Code, is still a valid document.

No town without gazette

That aside, the importance of declaring a township via gazette is due to the categorisation of land use that comes with the deposited plan.

The declaration also allows PJ residents' tax monies to be paid to the PJ City Council or MBPJ, instead of to the federal government which founded the township.This gazette is what allows MBPJ to exist and what gives power to the council to exact public taxes through assessment fees.

It also prevents the city from being developed or redeveloped contrary to the layout in the deposited plan. But PJ's current development, as I will explain below, flagrantly disregards this gazette.

Structure plans and local plans

One question that might be asked is this: what is the point of preparing structure plans and local plans when there is already a deposited plan for PJ? Simply put, structure and local plans are supposed to guide development in areas that have not been developed. These plans are not meant to disturb an already existing township.

Part of structure plan, recognising old PJ area as "sedia ada"

The Rancangan Struktur Daerah Petaling dan Sebahagian Daerah Klang, or structure plan, prepared in 1996 recognised this. It specifically labelled the old PJ area as "sedia ada"; not to be touched by further development. Additionally, it stipulated that development in surrounding areas that weren't developed yet at that time should adhere to the zoning provided in the structure plan's gambarajah utama.

The 2003 PJ Local Plan 1 sought to undo what the structure plan had laid out. This was despite the fact that the Town and Country Planning Act specifically mentions that the preparation of a local plan must adhere to the tenets set out in the structure plan.

Where are the open spaces?

One of the most glaring discrepancies between the deposited plan and the actual development of PJ today is the zoned "open spaces" that have buildings built over them.

Guidelines for the development of public open space

"Open space", as defined by the Town and Country Planning Act, means "any land whether enclosed or not which is laid out or reserved for laying out wholly or partly as a public garden, park, sports and recreation ground, pleasure ground, walk or as a public space".

No one should have been able to develop these gazetted green spaces into commercial properties, yet that is the reality today. It should be noted that these same areas were zoned for commercial development under the PJ Local Plan 1. But as I pointed out previously, the said document may well be illegal.

The conclusions I've arrived at do not represent the local council's stand. But it is important nonetheless to have public discourse over such an important matter. favicon

MBPJ councillor KW Mak invites readers who would like to scrutinise the PJ deposited plan to obtain a copy. Section 413 of the National Land Code states that a deposited plan is available to any person upon application to the director of survey and mapping.

Next: Examining the development approval process

courtesy of Nut Graph

No comments: