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GEORGE TOWN, Nov 16 — Many Penang pre-war building owners are selling off their properties due to frustration with the lengthy approvals for restoration works, according to the Property Development, Construction and Management Committee (PDCMC).
Its heritage and tourism division head Michael Geh said some owners have faced delays of up to two years before their applications to restore their heritage buildings were approved, which hiked up costs.
“This is just one of the factors that caused some of these heritage building owners to sell off their inheritance,” he told reporters today after announcing PDCMC's plan to conduct a thorough study on issues afflicting heritage building owners in the George Town world heritage site.
Geh said reports that these owners are selling out due to being offered high prices for their properties were not entirely accurate.
"There are many other factors such as the delay in approvals and this is why we are conducting this study, to find out why heritage building owners are selling their properties," he said.
He said PDCMC will start conducting the study by canvassing over 100 heritage building owners in the inner city.
"We will be focusing on three main points, first on why they are selling, secondly, on why they are finding it hard to use their own buildings for businesses and thirdly, on why some of the buildings are abandoned," he said.
The study will be concluded by next month and a final report of the study will be submitted to PCCC by January 2017.
Earlier in his opening remarks during a seminar on sustainable development for George Town World Heritage Site, Geh said there needs to be a balance between heritage conservation and development.
"Recently, much has been said about protecting the rights of tenants but what about the owners? These heritage building owners have rights too and they too have issues to be resolved," he said.
Later, when asked to comment, George Town World Heritage Inc (GTWHI) general manager Dr Ang Ming Chee said the purpose of the seminar is to reach out to heritage building owners and to clarify the requirements under the Special Area Plan.
She is also interested to look at the results of PDCMC's study into the issues afflicting heritage building owners.
"We will definitely ask for the report from PCCC," she said.
PDCMC is a committee under Penang Chinese Chamber of Commerce, a local non-governmental organisation focused on trade and commerce.
Ang said heritage building owners who faced problems with their buildings could always approach GTWHI and the Penang Island City Council's heritage conservation department for assistance and advice.