GEORGE TOWN, July 3 — Penang will not stop entrepreneurs from setting up businesses in the heritage area here so long as they adhere to the city’s strict heritage guidelines and bylaws, Penang Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow said today.
He explained that the George Town heritage zone has a Special Area Plan (SAP) to regulate development in the city.
“In the SAP, there are zoning controls over these types of businesses,” he said, referring to the increasing number of tourist-centric businesses such as cafes, hotels, concept stores and souvenir shops.
Chow said the state does not want to curb entrepreneurship but stressed that businesses will be subjected to development controls by the local council.
These must comply with all regulations and get relevant approvals before operating their business in the city, the CM said.
He was responding to Lithuanian artist Ernest Zacharevic’s remarks calling for strict regulations to prevent rapid gentrification in the inner city.
The artist blamed his street art, notably the iconic Children on Bicycle mural, for creating a circus-like atmosphere around the once quiet streets in the heritage zone.
However, Zacharevic also commended the city council for taking strict enforcement by tearing down a shop that had put up structures without a permit.
Chow said Zacharevic’s murals have propelled Penang and its tourism over the past few years.
He admitted that they have attracted a lot of attention but stressed that the demolition of the illegal extension of a cafe nearby was not due to the tourist crowds around the area.
“The structure was put up without proper approval and tearing it down was a very stringent enforcement action,” he said.
Zacharevic’s wall murals all around George Town were painted in 2012 in conjunction with the George Town Festival.
The artist shot to fame after that and the murals became iconic works of art that drew crowds to the sites on a daily basis.