KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 19 — The proposed amendment to the Town and Country Planning Act 1976 requiring state governments to get advice from a federal council on land development projects is not binding on states unless they agree to it, a lawyer said today.
Derek Fernandez, who has expertise in local government, planning and development laws, highlighted Section 1(3) of the Town and Country Planning Act, which he said makes it clear that the law will not apply to any area of the state which the state does not agree to.
“Most states have, at various times, brought in parts or the whole Act and gazetted the same.
“If the federal government wants to amend the Town and Country Planning Act 1976, the same applies — each state can decide for itself whether it wishes to have the amendment apply to it,” Fernandez told Malay Mail Online.
Section 1(3) of the Town and Country Planning Act states that the state authority may bring provisions of the Act into operation in any manner it deems advantageous, or declare that a provision shall not apply to certain local planning authorities or areas.
The federal government tabled the proposed amendment to the Town and Country Planning Act for the first reading at the Dewan Rakyat on Monday, suggesting the introduction of a new provision, Section 20B.
Section 20B makes it mandatory for state and federal government agencies to get advice from a federal council on land reclamation works, except for the construction of jetties or beach nourishment, as well as on the construction of airports, highways, dams, and other “national interest” infrastructure.
According to the proposed Section 20B(2), getting advice from the council means that state and federal government agencies must submit to the council the development proposal, a social impact assessment report, and other reports as decided by the council.
Fernandez said there was nothing wrong with the federal government, state government or local authority imposing social impact assessment reports in “prescribed cases” in order to promote sustainable development, especially in mega construction projects.
“Certainly all levels of government can sit together and agree on the format of a social impact report, but it would be unjust, unfair and even silly to allow only a federal executive body to have the final say in the matter as these are matters pertaining to the development of land in a state unless the states agree to it,” he said.
Fernandez, who is also a Petaling Jaya City Council (MBPJ) councillor, pointed out that submitting social impact assessment reports are already standard practice for big infrastructure projects like the Kinrara-Damansara Expressway (Kidex), besides large property development projects like PJ Sentral and Icon City in Petaling Jaya.
The proposed amendment does not identify the federal council from which the state governments and their agencies are required to consult.
However, the only federal council which currently monitors such land developments is the National Physical Planning Council chaired by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak.