GEORGE TOWN: A heritage double-storey bungalow at the corner of Peel Avenue and Pierce Road has been demolished despite concerns raised by various quarters in recent months.
Checks by the New Straits Times at the site today showed the ground had been flattened and is now being used as a car park.
It is not known when the building was torn down. Two security guards who are manning the site, refused to disclose details about the demolition.
The green light for the demolition of the Category II building was approved in June this year for a hospital expansion project although it (the hospital) was still in the process of applying for the necessary approvals.
State Gerakan acting Youth chief Jason Loo demanded that the Penang government come clean on why the heritage building was torn down when the hospital expansion project has yet to be approved by the Health Ministry.
He also questioned why the state government had given so much leeway to a particular company when the Chief Minister Incorporated (CMI) had sold the prime land without an open tender.
"One (heritage building) is down despite concerns raised.
"So, when is the next building on this Peel Avenue land going to be demolished?" he asked.
The building is one of four heritage buildings on the Peel Avenue land that are categorised as Category II heritage buildings in the state heritage buildings list, which warrants every effort to preserve them.
George Town Heritage Action (GTHA) member Mark Lay had told the NST before this that the planned demolition was nothing out of the ordinary, pointing to the fact that a number of heritage buildings had been torn down previously by the respective developers after building permission was issued by the Penang Island City Council (MBPP).
He had said that Malaysia, in general, and Penang, specifically, were not ready to preserve heritage.
Citizens Awareness Chant Group (CHANT) adviser Yan Lee had urged the MBPP to conduct proper studies such as heritage impact assessment for the building and also a public consultation.
Loo also asked how the authorities are planning to 're-instate' the demolished building if the Health Ministry does not approve the hospital expansion project.
"We can't allow the Penang government to do things according to their own whims and fancies.
"One by one the heritage buildings are demolished. One by one the people's land are being sold. All these have to stop," he added.
Loo said the state government had also failed to respond to his previous queries on the Peel Avenue land such as on why the rush to approve the conversion of land use to commercial and demolish an old heritage building when the Health Ministry's approval for the hospital expansion project has yet to granted.
"The Chief Minister had served me with three legal letters on this land deal, but he has been quiet since.
"I am always ready to face him in the court as I have many documents and facts that I want to disclose to the public. I will never stop and I will speak up for the people of Penang," he added.
The prime piece of state land at Peel Avenue was sold to Island Hospital for RM156 million on a 99-year-lease without going through open tender.
Island Hospital intends to build the Island Medical City on the 2.56ha land.
It comprises an initial 600-bed hospital, and to increase the capacity to 1,000 beds in the future while the hotel would also be built in the later stages.
Penang Island Municipal Council Mayor Datuk Maimunah Mohd Sharif has yet to respond to NST's queries on the demolition.