Town Planning as a Driving Force of Urban Growth and Development: The Case of Penang, Malaysia

Penang, an island in what is now called Peninsular Malaysia, has grown from a small British colony in the 18th century to one of the most modern metropolitan areas in South East Asia today. A large contribution to the driving force of its rapid and orderly growth was due to the far-sightedness of its early administrators and planners and to the good system of planning and administration adopted since its early days. It had the advantage of having a legal and administration system based on those that were developed, tried and tested throughout the centuries of growth and development in England and Europe, as well as in their earlier colonies in Asia. Specifically it has adopted a town development and town planning system that has been influenced very much by English town planning and development philosophies, laws and procedures, but which was adapted throughout the decades to suit local situations.
This paper is an attempt to trace the driving force of town planning laws, systems and procedures, in the growth and development of Penang, from the colonial days, through the days prior to the Second World War and national independence, to the post-independence days till today. It will first look into the history of the planning laws in Malaysia in general and in Penang in particular, and trace its influence by English laws, and how they have been amended and adapted throughout the history of Penang. It will then look into the impact of these laws and how they have been administered and enforced, on the pattern of social, economic, cultural and physical growth of Penang. It will also touch on the system of national planning since independence. It will describe in more detail, the Town and Country Planning Act, which was adopted in Malaysia in 1976, and its system of preparation of development plans and of development control, and how it has ensured the orderly development and growth in the country in general and in Penang in particular. Finally, it will delve into the shortcomings of the town planning laws, system and procedures as adopted and practiced in Penang, and perhaps recommend how the system of planning should be so that is more suitable for Malaysia.
It is hoped that this topic can be enlarged in later summer camps to look in town planning laws and systems in the other South East Asian countries in our group and to make a comprehensive comparative study of this urban driving force.