Prove Sir Stamford Raffles stayed at Runnymede, Penang mayor tells activists

The former Runnymede Hotel is left vacant and its structures are deteriorating. ― Picture by K.E.Ooi
The former Runnymede Hotel is left vacant and its structures are deteriorating. ― Picture by K.E.Ooi

GEORGE TOWN, Feb 24 — Mayor Datuk Patahiyah Ismail maintained today that the Penang Island City Council (MBPP) does not have any record of Sir Stamford Raffles ever staying in one of the demolished buildings within the Runnymede Hotel compound and urged activists to prove the council wrong.

The mayor said the council only has records of the Runnymede Hotel building that was not demolished by the landowner.

“These heritage activists should prove their claims that the demolished building was the one Raffles had lived in when he was in Penang,” she told a press conference today.

Currently, only the three-storey 1920s hotel building was listed as a Category II heritage building under the council’s inventory of heritage buildings in the state.

Patahiyah added that the landowner had permission to demolish the surrounding buildings except for the main hotel building.

Runnymede Hotels Sdn Bhd was given planning approval in 1999 to construct a mixed development of three office blocks and a block of hotel on the site.

Patahiyah reiterated that the planning approval is still valid until today because they have already built one of the office blocks, Bangunan KWSP, which is next to the cluster of Runnymede hotel buildings.

According to the planning approval, only the main hotel building, number 40, must be preserved and restored.

The three-storey main building, in a neoclassical design, was built around 1921.

More than a century ago in 1808, this was the site where Singapore founder Thomas Stamford Raffles built his home, called Runnymede, along the North Beach.

Unfortunately, the original structure burned down in 1901 but it was rebuilt on the same site a couple decades later.

The landowner demolished the collection of buildings except for the main building on February 9.

Earlier today, Gerakan Bayan Baru division chief Teh Leong Meng claimed the demolition was illegal.

He pointed out the planning permission was approved 17 years ago and insisted that such permissions can only be extended for five times.

He insisted that the planning permission was outdated and demanded that the state government explain why the demolition was allowed.

“It is time that the state government be accountable for this failure to stop the demolition of these buildings,” he told reporters at the site.

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