Thursday, September 23, 2010

Heritage Sabah takes State Agency to task


KOTA KINABALU (23rd Sept 2010): Recently formed group Heritage Sabah wants a State agency to clarify its statement that commercial development next to the Atkinson Clock Tower will not have a negative impact on the 105-year-old structure.

The group led by architect/writer Richard Nelson Sokial said there was simply no logical argument to justify building a 16-storey shopping mall next to the city’s oldest historical landscape, with the excuse that it would enhance the aesthetic value of the clock tower.

He said this today in reaction to a statement by Sabah Housing and Town Development Authority (SHTDA) chairman Datuk Rubin Balang that the proposed project would instead “give a much needed facelist with proper infrastructure that would make the clock tower a real tourism attraction.”

Sokial said an upgrade of the area close to the clock tower should be translated into better paving, lighting and repairing broken staircases and signages to help promote the structure.

“In what way does a 16-storey commercial mall-cum-hotel built metres from the clock tower beautify the place?

“Based on approved building plans, the tower will only get the full view of the mall’s parking lot, which is actually the rear of the building,” he said in a statement.

He said based on his understanding of the development plan, it looks as though it will involve the cutting of a nearby hill.

“They will have to cut trees at the slope in order to build their mall. Is this their idea of upgrading? It does not enhance the tower. It just destroys its cultural significance,” he said.

On Tuesday, it was reported that the State Environment Protection Department (EPD) had rejected the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) for the proposed project, but that the developer could appeal.

The project which came into the limelight recently, is a joint venture between the SHTDA and a private developer.

Sokial pointed out that the proposed project at the city’s oldest heritage landmark would jeopardize any hope of further promoting the structure for tourism.

“This is not an ordinary project. It involves the well being of the city’s most enduring heritage landmark.

He added that one does not have to be a town planner or architect to see that the project does not enhance the lives of people living in the city.

He said based on feedback received from the public, there are too many malls in the city, some of which are still empty.

“Heritage Sabah represents the public who would rather see the clock tower and its surrounding area turned into a public recreation park for everyone to gather.

“We hope that the SHTDA will reconsider their plans and do the right thing for our city,” he said.


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