Sanctuary no more

By Noel Achariam

Residents have been against the development on Bukit Gasing since 2008. — File picture

Residents have been against the development on Bukit Gasing since 2008. File picture

KUALA LUMPUR: A High Court ruling to allow development on Bukit Gasing has sparked an outcry among residents and concerned parties.

High Court Judge Datuk Aziah Ali on Monday rejected the application by 108 Bukit Gasing residents for a judicial review to challenge the development order issued by the Kuala Lumpur mayor for the controversial hillslope project by Gasing Meridian Sdn Bhd (GMSB) in their area, which is one of the few green lungs near Kuala Lumpur.

The High Court had ruled that GMSB can proceed to develop the Sanctuary Ridge Kuala Lumpur City project comprising 70 bungalows on a 15.5ha site in Bukit Gasing here.

Justice Aziah who made the decision in chambers ruled that based on the Federal Territory (Planning) Act 1982, the 108 residents did not have the right to be heard for the development.

In 2008, 108 residents filed the application for judicial review to quash the development order by the Kuala Lumpur mayor.

The mayor, in an order dated Oct 2, 2007, issued to GMSB, allowed the developer to carry out earth works and sub-divisions in the area.

In their application, the residents claimed that the mayor had failed to take into account that they had the right to be given due notice.

The residents added that they must be given a chance to voice their opinions in the decision-making process of planning.

Gasing Joint Action Committee coordinator Gary Yeoh said the residents were unhappy and would likely appeal against the decision.

"We will have to talk to the residents and decide on our next course of action. We believe that it is the fundamental right of the residents to know how this development will affect them.

"We are disappointed with the mayor's attitude. All we are asking for is a public hearing. The residents on the Petaling Jaya side of the hill are also concerned about the impact of the development on them.

"A recent extension to the Sivan Temple at Bukit Gasing had resulted in a 300m landslip. We hope the authorities will not compromise our safety," he said.

Petaling Jaya councillor Derek Fernandez said he was unhappy with the decision of the High Court.

"All the residents wanted was the right to be heard before a decision is made on the development of the hillslope. Residents and neighbouring land owners feel that the development will pose a threat to their safety.

"We will respect the court's decision and wait to hear what the residents plan to do next," he said.

Fernandez said it was the basic right of people to be heard when development was taking place next to their homes.

"Our conscience is clear as we have done everything within our power to inform the local authority of the great danger in allowing development on Bukit Gasing.

"If anything happens, it is on their hands. They cannot blame the developer, engineer or office boy anymore. They will have to take full responsibility. The office of the mayor will be held accountable should a disaster like a landslide occurs," he said.

Bukit Gasing state assemblyman Edward Lee was equally disappointed with the court's decision.

"We hope the residents will not to give up as we look at other ways to present this case to the courts.

Lee also said that the residents should be given an opportunity to voice their grievances.

"At the end of the day, the interest of the public should be protected.

"However, all is not lost. The residents should make a fresh appeal," he said.

Medan Damansara Residents' Association secretary Peter Raiappan said that he was shocked at the outcome of the decision to allow the hillslope development.

"This is tragic, especially for the residents who are trying to save and preserve the environment. We are looking at the government to preserve nature, instead they are allowing development on a hillslope. This is a major setback for all residents. We are now unsure if we will suffer the same fate," he said.

Medan Damansara residents have been protesting against a hillside development in their area for the past four years.

A landslip in the area last year forced two families to evacuate their homes.

The Damansara 21 project there consists of 21 bungalows priced between RM10 million and RM15 million each.