Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Scrap Development Next to Historical Landmark, Group Tells Government

Press Release by Heritage Sabah

KOTA KINABALU (21st Sept 2010): A newly formed heritage group here has welcomed the Government’s decision to turn down the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) report submitted by the developer of a 16-storey shopping mall in the vicinity of the Atkinson Clock Tower.

Heritage Sabah now wants the Sabah Government to take a further step by acquiring land surrounding the city’s oldest surviving colonial structure and turn it into a public park.

Architect/writer Richard Nelson Sokial who initiated the formation of the group when talk surfaced about the proposed construction of yet another mall in the city, thanked the State Environment Protection Department for rejecting the developer’s EIA.

“We read the statement made by Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Masidi Manjun on the rejection of the EIA. We want to see an end to this project and the State Government must intervene to save the hillside of the 105-year-old Atkinson Clock Tower.

“The proposed mall would ruin the natural surroundings and intrinsic heritage value of the historic Atkinson Clock Tower,” Sokial said in a statement issued today.

It was reported today that the State Government has ordered the central town planning board to re-study plans to build a commercial complex next to the tower, following growing public anxiety over the proposed development that would include a hotel and shops. Masidi was also quoted as saying that the Environment Protection Department had rejected the developer’s EIA.

Sokial said the group was glad Masidi had stated that proposed projects should not affect heritage sites and other areas of environmental importance.

Sokial said the clock tower is a crucial link between Padang Merdeka (another historical area that has existed since 1900s), the heritage row of shops along Jalan Dewan towards the Kota Kinabalu Community Centre and links up to the city Observation Tower through a scenic pathway of huge jungle trees.

Joggers and cyclists also use the clock tower as a rendezvous point for their weekly recreational activities.

“Alternative economic opportunities can be proposed if the clock tower site is re-acquired. Stalls selling t-shirts, souvenirs and other paraphernalia are viable options. Local artists and photographers can ply their trade talents at base of the clock tower.

“Small food stalls and cafes with roof heights that do not break through the green canopy of the existing trees can be considered. Traditional crafts and services of Old Jesselton can also be centered here.

“The heritage branding and promotion of the century-old clock tower is the key towards this achieving this solution. But it will not materialize if we have a 16-storey shopping mall dwarfing the historical structure right at its own doorstep.”

“All the area needs is an upgrade of non-intrusive, low density infrastructure, better landscaping, good lighting and continued maintenance. Not another shopping mall,” Sokial said.

The wooden clock tower, named after Francis George Atkinson, the first district officer of Jesselton (the colonial name for Kota Kinabalu), sits on the foothills of the city’s famous Signal Hill.

Heritage Sabah has set up a Facebook page that now has over 2,032 members since news of the controversial plan became public knowledge.

In addition, there is an online petition at that has already garnered 599 signatures since it was launched on September 16, 2010.