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Wave of submissions to turn century-old bungalows on Penang Hill into homestays worries Chant

GEORGE TOWN: The owners of at least five of 52 bungalows located on Penang Hill have submitted applications to the Penang Island City Council (MBPP) to renovate and convert their properties into homestays, the Citizen Awareness Chant Group (Chant) revealed today.

Chant legal adviser Yan Lee said, from what he was told by "Friends of Chant", these bungalows would be converted into smaller accommodations of not more than 20 rooms each.

He said many of these bungalows were century-old structures, rich in heritage values, although they were not listed as Category I or Category II heritage buildings.

"As such, we want to ask the Penang government if they have a Penang Hill technical review panel that approves and oversees renovations of the bungalows up on the hill, similar to that of the technical review panel looking after George Town's Unesco heritage enclave. Otherwise, who will ensure that the heritage values of these bungalows are retained after renovations?

"If we do not have the technical review panel just yet, then it must be formed immediately. Independent heritage experts should be roped in for that purpose.

"Let it be known that we are not against development, but we are in favour of development done properly. Penang Hill is the jewel of our crown and we should preserve the heritage at all cost," he said today.

Elaborating, Yan said Penang Hill and its surrounding areas were vying to be listed as a Unesco Biosphere Reserve.

"That being the case, more care should be accorded to Penang Hill from now so that things will not become haywire when the time comes.

"As such, everyone must put their act together from now to protect and preserve the rich heritage of this hill," he added.

Two years ago, more than 1.38 million tourists, including more than 505,000 foreigners, visited Penang Hill.

Earlier this year, the state government, through Penang Hill Corporation (PHC), called for a Request for Proposal (RFP) for the RM150 million cable car project for Penang Hill through collaboration with the private sector.

The cable car project is expected to take between three and four years to complete and be operational.

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