NOT many people, probably, other than those who serve in PLANMalaysia (the new name of the Federal Department of Town and Country Planning) and a handful of town planners in the Klang Valley have heard of the Land Readjustment System (LRS).
LRS is a land management tool, a technique or a system aimed at achieving an orderly urban planning by assembling separate land parcels and subjecting them to a unified planning, thereby achieving the following results.
The lands are reparcelled (replotted), better infrastructure (with sufficient roads, drains, open spaces), the assembled plots are subdivided (resulting in changed shapes and sizes), and the new replots are then redistributed to the land owners together with financial benefits.
According to PLANMalaysia, LRS has the following principal elements:
• Contribution (by participating landowners)
• Financial land (contributed by the State)
• Replotting (a notional sub-division)
• Sharing of costs (by landowners, implementing body or developer, the state)
• Participation in the project by land owners
• Empowering the Implementing body via an enabling legislation.
The Cabinet approved the LRS in June 1999 as one of the land development methods in the country.
Two sites were identified as the location for two pilot projects.
The first was in Kg Pulau Meranti in Sepang, and second in Kg Skudai Kiri, Johor.
As there was then no special law to implement the LRS, local authorities had to prepare a Special Area Plan under Section 16B of the Town and Country Planning Act 1976 (Act 172).
The success of an LRS project depends on all the land owners agreeing to participate in the project.
If any land owner does not agree, the local authority may declare the area as a Development Area under Section 38 of Act 172 and then proceed to acquire it by purchase under Section 37, or (as a last resort) acquire it compulsorily under the Land Acquisition Act 1960.
Recently, I spoke to a Kuala Lumpur-based town planner and asked him if the LRS could be used as a third alternative in the redevelopment of Kampung Baru.
I reminded him that according to media reports, the dialogue between the Kampung Baru residents and the Federal Territory Minister is currently focused on the voluntary sale and purchase of the affected lots in that Malay Agricultural Settlement (MAS).
The minister had offered the purchase price of RM850 per square foot, but residents demanded a higher price, between RM1,250 and RM1,500 per square foot.
Some residents demanded as high as RM2,000 per square foot.
Reportedly, there are currently 846 land lots owned by 5,374 people in that settlement.
Some of these land owners had died, whilst others are embroiled in inheritance disputes for decades.
There are also others who do not possess any documentary proof of ownership of their lands.
The Malaysian Malay Chambers of Commerce (Dewan Perniagaan Melayu Malaysia) stated recently that the price of RM850 per square foot is too low.
Its secretary-general, Amirhamzah Karim suggested that a fair price would be around RM2,000 per square foot.
The town planner agreed that we could apply LRS for the Kampung Baru development project. And why not?
Several years before the start of the pilot project in Kg Pulau Meranti, the then Federal Department of Town and Country Planning had engaged another town planning firm in Kuala Lumpur to draft a new law on LRS.
That firm had formed a working committee (of which I was appointed as a member) and as a result of our team effort for more than a year, a draft Land Readjustment Act was prepared.
However, I have no idea what had become of that draft, since many of the senior officers who were involved in that exercise had since been promoted and then retired from government service.
Last weekend, I visited PLANMalaysia’s official portal and was pleasantly surprised to see that there was still has a special unit called the “Land Readjustment Unit”.
The portal stated that one of the functions was to “identify potential sites for land readjustment projects”.
Since PLANMalaysia is now under the Federal Territory Minister, perhaps Kampung Baru could be identified as one of the “potential sites for land readjustment projects”?
The writer, a former federal counsel at the Attorney-General’s Chambers, is deputy chairman of Kuala Lumpur Foundation to Criminalise War