Derek John Fernandez, Advocate and Solicitor of Fernandez & Selvarajah.
Text : Eunice Ng
Bad town planning leads to environmental degradation and social coercion, even national economy will be in jeopardy; combined, they can cause mayhem. Derek John Fernandez, Advocate and Solicitor of Fernandez & Selvarajah spoke on Planning with the People between Fact and Fiction – Your Rights in Town Planning at MICG National Land and Property Governance Conference for the Public and Private Sectors 2011, late May, 2011 at Hotel Istana, Kuala Lumpur.
What is an “overcrowded koi pond”? To Derek John Fernandez, it is a situation of overcrowding and increase in densities without regard to the ability of the environment to sustain those increases.
“Overcrowding and overdevelopment in a closed system is the surest way to destroy the quality of life and environment.”
Derek, to put it mildly, feels there’s a lot more to improve in the country’s town planning, stressing that Malaysians have failed to use the land effectively.
“Courage is something we lack in our decision-making; that’s why we are in such a mess in terms of development in the Klang Valley and in other states.”
The solution is not to stop development but to assess whether development is sustainable in relation to existing developments and infrastructure around it.
Derek stresses on the need to put our foot down when the development is not sustainable; that we should have the courage to speak up and say ‘no’ where they are appropriate.
“We have been diverted with the arguments of economic prosperity measured in metric tons of concrete.”
“If the government’s direction is to spread out the Greater KL corridor, then it cannot encourage high densities.What we plan must be part of a master process.”
There is no shortage of development land, he says, only shortage of land with expensive market value. According to him, Putrajaya is a well-planned township but where are the people?
“Nobody’s interested to develop in Perak, Johor and in other areas. However, there are some brave developers who have ventured out to develop in others areas out of the city center.”
“All we need is just the supporting infrastructure to other areas out of the Klang Valley and the government should provide it,” he says.
The People’s Role
Some people say “it’s my land and I have the right to build what I want”. But Derek argues that being landowners does not give them the unqualified right to develop anything that they want on the land.
“They have the right to use and enjoy the land but what you can develop is subject to the local plan.”
“The ‘right to use’ in our country has been qualified by the Town and Country Planning Act 1976 (TCPA), which states your right to use the land you own is subject to the planning approval as well as zoning.”
Derek encourages people to speak up if they feel a proposed development will affect their quality of life.
The dire consequences of bad planning are evident. We see it in the traffic jams and gridlocks, in the frequent water cuts, polluted rivers and landslides; only smog fills up our day. We are living it this day.
“What we plan must be part of a master process.” – Derek John Fernandez