Friday, April 16, 2010

City Hall approached on Sg Besi airport redevelopment But the Defence Ministry will have the final say, says mayor

Tuesday, April 13th, 2010 13:03:00
Sungei Besi Airport
Ahmad Fuad (malaymail online)

KUALA LUMPUR: City Hall has confirmed receiving a proposal for the redevelopment of the Sungai Besi airport by the Defence Ministry a few months ago, but details are still sketchy. This comes after Bernama last week quoted Defence Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi as denying any such plans.

Mayor Datuk Seri Ahmad Fuad Ismail told The Malay Mail that City Hall called for a meeting with representatives from the Defence Ministry, Federal Land and Mines Department and the Public Private Partnership Unit (UKAS) which comes under the Prime Minister's Department, a couple of months ago. There were talks for the area to be redeveloped.

"We have not seen or received details on the type of redevelopment in store and no development application has been made so far. But yes, I can confirm there was a proposal for it."

He said only the Defence Ministry is privy to what plans it has for the area.

When pointed out that the area was earlier marked as a heritage site under the Draft Kuala Lumpur City Plan 2020, Ahmad Fuad said it is only a proposal made in plan and status as the land remains an airbase.

"Some would argue that the present buildings at the base do not have much heritage value and should not be marked as such."

The airbase used to be the country's first international. It served as the main link from 1952 till 1965, when the Subang airport was opened. It was first used as an airstrip in the 1930s before turning into an airport after World War II.

"The draft KL 2020 City Plan would also be gazetted soon. If the concerned parties do not get back to us regarding their redevelopment, then the status of the land will remain as it is now or it could also be marked as a green area in the gazetted plan," said Ahmad Fuad.

He said the Defence Ministry should decide whether they want the air base to remain within the city area.

"The ministry would know better whether it is being fully utilised and whether the land has any strategic value.

"We will be calling them again soon to find out what they have in mind and they would have to indicate to us what are their plans as the draft plan would be gazetted by this year."

Ahmad Fuad said City Hall is more than willing to give its input if given the opportunity to moot ideas for the proposed development.

He said they would likely propose the area should have a big park, good public pedestrian malls similar to that at Orchard Road in Singapore and could also be a transportation hub.

"I would say the area should ideally be turned into a mixed commercial and residential development, taking note of the height restriction regarding development there.

"But, if the area is developed in a proper manner similar to Putrajaya, it has the potential to be a second city centre. What is important for us would be to build things which would benefit the people."

Even if the Defence Ministry had other plans for the area, City Hall would still push for a big public park, said Ahmad Fuad.

As reported by The Malay Mail last week, sources revealed plans to develop Sungai Besi airport into a commercial business hub complete with a heliport had been revived but it remains unclear when it would take off.

Industry sources had said stakeholders operating the 162ha site, also known as Simpang, were informed of plans to redevelop the area by the government.

The Malay Mail also learned the airport's operator, Royal Malaysian Air Force (RMAF), which designated the area as the Kuala Lumpur air base, conducted a feasibility study to determine its need and options for a relocation exercise to make way for redevelopment. Initial results showed the air force had no operational reason to object to relocation.

Apart from RMAF and the police air wing, the air unit of the Fire and Rescue Department also operates from the airport as well as the Royal Selangor Flying Club with its fleet of three Cessna aircraft and a Robinson R44 Raven helicopter.


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