SEBERANG PERAI IS a sizeable 73,841 hectares, or to be precise, it makes up 71% of Penang State’s total land mass. With the Island being well developed, local town planners have in recent years shifted their gaze to the promise of Penang’s mainland.
It is projected that the population in Seberang Perai will grow to 1,263,200 by 2030; this will account for 55% of the state’s total population. To accommodate this ballooning figure, the drafted Seberang Perai Local Plan 2030 (RTSP 2030) has determined key areas in the local economy to be developed, in order to create employment opportunities and to raise the standard of living of residents.
It was as early as in 2018 that the RTSP 2030 was proposed, during a conference with leaders of the Seberang Perai City Council (MBSP). When gazetted, the local plan will confer MBSP legal powers to initiate development plans, the acquisition of land for road construction, for example.
Three pillars act as guiding principles in the draft: competitiveness, inclusiveness and eco-friendliness. Taken together, these are aimed to realise Seberang Perai into a resilient, inclusive, environmental-friendly, competitive and technologically-advanced smart city by 2030.
There are six policy strategies to facilitate this goal: centralised development within residential and development zones; centralised urban developments; transit-oriented development zones; preservation and management of ecological zones; 20-minute city; and circular economy. These are aligned with UN’s Sustainable Development Goals and the New Urban Agenda, both of which are key UN initiatives to ensure the sustainability of urban development across the world.
Centralised Development within Residential and Development Zones
Three areas have been identified to function as catalyst hubs: Node 1 – Catalyst Hub for the Growth of Greater Butterworth; Node 2 – Catalyst Hub for the Growth of Kepala Batas-Bertam; and Node 3 – Catalyst Hub for the Growth of Bandar Cassia-Simpang Ampat.
As the name suggests, Node 1 will oversee the development of Greater Butterworth, and the linking of the Bagan Ajam, Seberang Jaya, Bukit Tengah, Perai, Juru, Permatang Pauh and Butterworth townships as part of the northern region’s transportation hub. The development of a high-tech industrial park is also in the pipeline, as are a logistics hub, a coastal commercial hub and a tourism hub.
Node 2 will be transformed into the main district administrative centre for North Seberang Perai, with plans to develop the townships of Kepala Batas and Bertam into a commercial centre to house various high-tech industries.
Further south is Node 3 which will be promoted as a commercial and tourism hub. To encourage economic growth, a second high-tech industrial park and a science park will be established there.
A staff member of MBSP explaining details of the RTSP 2030 to a visitor to the exhibition booth.
Of the three nodes, Butterworth has been earmarked as an Improvement District and will oversee the revival of commercial and industrial activities at the Butterworth waterfront, as well as the area surrounding its train station. Similarly, the initiative BIDs (Business Improvement Districts) will enhance Butterworth’s urban amenities, including the construction of smart infrastructures within the present industrial development zones to drive the growth of Seberang Perai’s smart industries.
The combination of commercial and housing developments into a mixed development ensures an advancement that is balanced between the city’s economy and standards of liveability. The northern bank of the Perai River has been reserved for recreational activities and will be known as the Blue and Green Corridor.
Villages situated at the outskirts of the city centre will be given a facelift with the upgrading and construction of infrastructures, and public areas will be landscaped and old residential buildings rejuvenated.
Transit-oriented Development (TOD) Zones
Mayor of MBSP Dato' Sr Hj Rozali bin Hj Mohamud presiding over the launching ceremony of RTSP 2030.
With the implementation of the RTSP 2030, Seberang Perai is poised to transform into a region where its local townships are well-connected through state of the art public transportation. Light rail transit, monorails, bus rapid transit (BRT) and Keretapi Tanah Melayu (KTM)-operated commuters will be concentrated for all the three districts of South, Central and North Seberang Perai.
TOD 1 at Butterworth will be the main transportation hub for northern Malaysia, while TOD 2 focuses on the townships of Bukit Mertajam, Nibong Tebal and Bandar Cassia. TOD 3 will in turn concentrate on the smaller townships of Simpang Ampat, Bukit Tengah and Tasek Gelugor. For easy commute, selected locations along the transportation network will also offer park and ride services, including the train stations at Simpang Ampat, Tasek Gelugor and Nibong Tebal, as well as Permatang Pauh, Macang Bubok and Bertam.
Another focus area of the RTSP 2030 is the creation of a pedestrian-friendly urban environment through the two-pronged “road diet” method, which reduces the width of public roads and limits the number of public parking lots to create safer pedestrian walkways and to combat traffic congestion and air pollution.
This will also complement the “20-minute city” concept in which the walking distance between each urban public facility such as recreational parks, commercial centres, public transportation facilities, educational institutions and public hospitals are all within 20 minutes’ reach.
Preservation and Management of Ecological Zones
More natural sanctuaries in Seberang Perai including Pasir Gebu, Lahar Endin, Kuala Bekah, Sungai Udang and Sungai Chenaam will be gazetted as permanent forest reserves, in addition to existing ones in Bukit Mertajam, Bukit Seraya, Bukit Panchor, Bukit Juru and Byram. There are proposals as well to extend the gazetted area to include forested areas around the Bukit Mertajam and Bukit Seraya reserves.
Meanwhile, parts of the Kerian River will be gazetted to rehabilitate and protect the fireflies which are endemic to the locale. Additionally, several corridors have been designated for large-scale reforestation; this is part of MBSP’s efforts to rehabilitate and conserve the mainland’s natural environs. These corridors are the Kerian River, Tengah River, Jawi River, Juru River, Perai River and Muda River that function as important water catchment areas and habitats of marine life.
Where waste management is concerned, the RTSP 2030 proposes the implementation of the Circular Economy Road Map to integrate sustainability within the overall economic planning and development of Seberang Perai. Waste generated from households, factories, businesses, government premises and construction sites will first be separated on-site from source into different waste and recycling streams. Unrecyclable items will be disposed of at the landfill while recyclable materials are ascertained for remanufacturing purposes; these will either be transported to other states or exported overseas to benefit the global circular economy.
The Road Map is in support of the Seberang Perai Climate Action Strategy, introduced on January 22, 2020, in which MBSP aspires to be a zero waste city by 2030 and to reach 50% usage of renewable energy.
Gathering Public Feedback
While the RTSP 2030 is currently under review by the state planning committee, MBSP has launched a series of publicity campaigns, from April 12 to June 11, across different locations in Penang to encourage visitation to its exhibition booths, as well as to gather public feedback.
For those interested, the locations are at Ruang Legar, MBSP, Menara Bandaraya, Jalan Perda Utama, Bandar Perda, Bukit Mertajam; Plan Malaysia Penang Office, Level 57, Komtar; Pejabat Daerah dan Tanah Seberang Perai Utara, Kepala Batas; Pejabat Daerah dan Tanah Seberang Perai Tengah, Sungai Rambai; and Pejabat Daerah dan Tanah Seberang Perai Selatan, Sungai Jawi.
This will be followed by a hearing session (date to be confirmed) where the public is once again invited to offer input and suggestions. The recommendations will then be collected and submitted to policymakers for a second round of review, before the drafted RTSP 2030 is finalised and gazetted.
Enzo Sim is a Mass Communications graduate who has an unwavering passion towards International Relations, history and regional affairs of Southeast Asia. His passion has brought him to different Southeast Asian capitals to explore the diverse cultural intricacies within the region.