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A COMPARATIVE STUDY BETWEEN THE MALAYSIAN STRUCTURE PLAN AND THE THEORITICAL STRUCTURE PLAN By ABBAS ABDUL WAHAB This article was first published in the Federal Department of Town and Country Planning Malaysia's JERNAL JPBD Bil.15 SEPT 1981 (ISSN 0126-9151). It represents the first paper published by the author after graduating with a Degree in Planning at Gloucestershire College of Arts & Desgn, UK 1980. INTRODUCTION The Town and Country Planning Act (T.C.P.A.) 1976 is Peninsula Malaysia's effort to devise a comprehensive and uniform law in the field of town and country planning. The Act created the socalled 'Structure Plan'. Much of the T.C.P.A. 1976 was based on the T.C.P.A. 1971 for England and Wales 1968. Being based on a concept devised and practised in a foreign land, three modifications were formulated and put into effect, in order to so it seemed at that point in time, assimilate the structure plan into a Malaysian political and administrative establishment. They are as follows: 1. The position and responsibilities of the Secretary of State for the Department of Environment, a one-man show, was replaced by 12 knights of the round table officially known as 'The State Planning Committee' (S.P.C. Pt.II, S.4 Act 172 T.C.P.A. 1976); 2. The definition of a 'Local Planning Authority' was changed from a Borough Council and a County Council to that of a City Council, Municipal Council, District Council, Town Council, Local Council, Rural Council or any similar authority established by or under any written Malaysian law. (Pt.I S.2 pg.10 Act 172 T.C.P.A.1976); 3. The Appeal Board and the system of appeal was slightly ammended to take into account the Malaysian procedure of appeal (Pt.IV S.23 Act 172 T.C.P.A. 1976). The reasons as to why the structure plan was accepted in Peninsular Malaysia and not other methods of planning, for example advocacy planning, is not discussed here for it is feared will only serve to side-track from the main issue of this study, which is to compare between the Malaysian structure plan with the normally accepted theoritical structure plan. However, for better or for worse, the structure plan has been accepted and is here to stay. To date, the Seremban Structure Plan, the first structure plan of its kind in Malaysia, is currently being prepared. (Actually, the Kuala Lumpur Master Plan is Malaysia's first structure plan though cloaked under a different name or terminology). Meanwhile, the federal government, under the Forth Malaysia Plan, has already approved finanical assistance for the preparation of structure plans for five towns, namely, Ipoh, Johor Bahru, Kuantan, Malacca and Butterworth. THE PRESSING PROBLEM The T.C.P.A 1976 with its structure plan was based on the T.P.C.A .1976 for England and Wales but the T.C.P.A. 1976 is also said to have wholly adopted the theory and concept of structure plan. What does this statement imply and what confusion has it brought about? With reference to the approach which ought to be the same, why is it not so in practice? To be based on the English system implies that modification of the English structure plan could be made and in fact were made, but only to the extent of assimilating it to the local environment. Yet, it will be questioned as to the practicality of these modifications i.e. the three modifications mentioned earlier. Secondly, to have adopted the theory and concept of structure plan, one would have


automatically assumed that the two approaches would be the same but in practice this does not seem to be so. In fact, there is a marked difference and divergence between the Malaysian structure plan and the theoritical structure plan. A comparision of the two suggests that the basic difference lies in the definition of a Local Planning Authority' (L.P.A.) and equally important, the area of jurisdiction covered by the L.P.A. This interesting analysis indicates two main implications: Firstly, that the deviation from the theoritical structure plan could not have been intentional for this would have contradicted the original purpose and emphasis of adopting the theory and concept of the structure plan. Therefore, to have deviated as it now strongly suggest that during the formulation and development of the Malaysian structure plan, a serious error of judgement was made. It could most probably have been the lack of adequate knowledge and proper research into the theoritical structure plan system, inadequate evaluation and analysis, the intervention of bureacractic and/or political forces, the emphasis of an old school of thought i.e. the assumption that a structure plan meant any plan in structural form or even the confusion with other planning concepts which led to this deviation. Secondly, it implies that the current implementation of a structure plan is not producing the optimum results which it was designed for, thereby not maximising on the use of financial aid, time, professional expertise and manpower. This can only be the result of a possible assumption that the Malaysian structure plan is indeed following the lines of the theoritical structure plan. This paper proposes to consider the various modifications and how they fare in practice as well as to questions their worth. THE ACCEPTED MODIFICATIONS QUESTIONED The theoritical structure plan had opted for one person to decide on the fate of structure plans. He is equipt witht the executive power to decide on whether a structure plan submitted for approval shall either be rejected, accepted with modifications or wholly accepted. He may call upon the help of various persons of 'qualified background' to aid him in his final decision. He is the Sectrary of State for the Department of the Environment and it is understandable to note that much of the framework in the theoritical structure plan had been greatly influenced by the British system of government where land is a national matter. This section of the system is not applicable in Malaysia for land here is a state matter and cannot be dealt with at the federal level. It can be argued that the Secretary of State for the Environment could be replaced by the Menteri Besar. But the Menteri Besar's role is more the advice and involvement of technical government departments in the S.P.C. So, this matter applies only to that section of the theoritical structure plan into a local situation. In support of the S.P.C., it should be said that in comparision of one person it prevents the possibility of autocracy and to a certain extent reduces the opportunity for bias. “Two heads are better than one� and twelve heads are certainly even better. There is undoubtedly the possible occurance of delay, having to constantly gather 12 committee members for meetings rather than one person, but, in a constructive way, a group encourages the development of healthy discussions and wider participation and therefore, a better chance for social justice. In a nutshell, the vesting of power in one decision-maker cannot be practised in Peninsular Malaysia because all land is a state matter and there are eleven states in Peninsula Malaysia. Even within each state, the S.P.C. tends to provide a better edge, say, the State Secretary and will prove to be a better choice as far as Penisular Malaysia is concerned. Probably, the root of the misconception lies in what had been defined as the Malaysian L.P.A. Here, two elements are affected: 1. The type of authority expected to prepare the structure plan; 2. The size of the study area i.e. the area of jurisdiction to be covered by each L.P.A. in the preparation of the structure plan.


Ignorance and negligence in adopting the above items in their orginal form required in the theoritical structure plan deforms the optimal use of such a plan and could probably defeat the purpose of preparing, implementing and enforcing a structure plan. The theory of town and ocuntry planning explicitly tells of numerous urban-rural conflicts which need to be resolved in a systematic way. It has been suggested that an ideal method is a comprehensive approach i.e. considering the L.P.A. as a whole and working one's way up to the macro-level. It is highly probable that inadequate knowledge of the British political system and the area of jurisdiction of local aurthorities have led to a confused interpretation of the meaning of a L.P.A. England and Wales refer it to as the governing party at their 'local' level. This refers either to the County Borough or County Council. Surprisingly, the Malaysian L.P.A has been defined at the size of the theoritical local level. The fact that the Malaysian structure plan is still being implemented tends to indicate that the L.P.A. was similar in content as well as the size of the study area. This leads to its 'local nature'. The argument that the Malaysian L.P.A. is by nature small even after the restructuring of the local authorities and therefore the structure plan should cover a small area, is hard to shallow. If adoption of the theoritical structure plan is the name of the game, why did it not instead choose to cover a larger study area to suit the L.P.A. of its theoritical brother? Thus, the Malaysian example has had the size of the study area all jumbled up. It refers to the study area when all the time it actually means a local setting and refers to a local setting when it actually means an Action Area. This has upset the whole system of preparing the structure plan and of achieving total comprehensiveness. “The question of scale is of major importance as it has a bearing on the scope of content of a structure plan� 1 hence, the Malaysian structure plan with its written statement of policies and illustrations by diagrams will, in theoritical sense, be a structure plan with its written statement of policies and illustrations by diagram covering but a local area! In the English system of structure planning, the right to appeal against the decision of the L.P.A. or against failure to give a decision at all can be made to the Secretary of State for the Department of Environment. This is because, as mentioned earlier, land is a national matter. However, the Secretary of State also has the power to leave decision-making concerning appeals to an independent tribunal, but only insofar as appeals affect the aesthetic qualities of affected buildings. In order to relieve pressure, he may appoint an Inspector (from the Board of Inspectorates: a neutral body of planning law experts) to deal with the appeals, where the decision of the Inspector becomes that of the Secratary of State himself. As mentioned earlier on, all land is a state matter in Peninsular Malaysia. This prohibits the appointment of a person at the federal level to handle appeals. Thus, appeals are best handled at state level. This led to the formulation of an Appeal Board for each state. Although every decision of the Appeal Board shall be that of the Chairman, (Section 36.9 Pt VI Act 172 T.C.P.A 1976) he can be considered a very reliable person of qualified background and have satisfactory judicial experience. (Section 36.2 (1) Pt. VI Act 172 T.C.P.A. 1976) Therefore, the Appeal Board is akin to a High Court but specializing in planning law and planning appeals. In short, the Malaysian administrative system has necessitated the modification of the theoritical structure plan. Here, the introduction of the Appeal Board and its contents is considered justified in order to ensure its adaptation into a Malaysian environment without destroying the fabric necessary for social justice to take place. RECOMMENDATIONS This comparative study between the Malaysian structure plan and the theoritical structure plan has managed to highlight modifications necessary for the Malaysian example to function here in Peninsular Malaysia as well as possible need for overhaul and improvement. Below is a list of alternative actions which the approporate authority could take: 1. The implementation fo the S.P.C. is seen as acceptable. However, to iron out problems of administration, bureaucracy and irritating delays, it is suggested that there be develop a close 1

Structure Planning and Pahang Tenggara Town by Jacqueline S.C.Foo Section 2.1,pg.3 Jernal JPBD No.3 Okt 1978


relationship and coordination between the S.P.C. and the Federal Department of Town and Country Planning to ensure smooth management throughout the preparation of the structure plan; 2. The T.C.P.A. 1976 should be ammended once and for all to cancel out all problems arising out of the present Act as will as those considered not applicable in practise, especially problems in the size of the study area; 3. The State Planning Authoriity i.e. the Department of Town and Country Planning for eash state should be empowered to prepare the structure plan at the state level, leaving the preparation of local plans to be prepared by L.P.A.s – a more fitting role for a local authority; 4. Coordination of two or more L.P.A.s to jointly prepare a structure plan of a regional nature. Preparation of the plan should be carried out by a special team appointed by the S.P.C. consisting of experts from the respective L.P.A.s. Later, when the structure plan has been accepted as a Development Plan, each L.P.A. should proceed individually to prepare its own local plan with reference to the Development Plan; 5. The infamous 'Tidak Apa' Strategy. Here, an apathetic attitude is adopted until public crictism overwhemingly cries out for improvement. This is following the notion of providing what people want rather than what people demand. However, it must be noted here that this strategy can easily backfire leaving the Department of Town and Country Planning being accused of being the cause of planning negligence. CONCLUSION This comparative study was written merely to question how effective the implementation of the Malaysian strucutre plan will be and to consider whether it can produce the optimum results for which a structure plan was designed. It seems that there is still much room for improvement. Obviously, this study can be taken very light heartedly. However, we, the town planners of the Department of Town and Country Planning are in control of our destiny: we are the cause of our own success or failure. We can bring our own department as well as our careers into fame or disrepute. Thus, it must be necessary at times to pinpoint mistakes made and be cruel to be kind in the hope of rectifying and improving ourselves. REFERENCE 1. Town and Country Planning Act for England and Wales 1971 H.M.S.O; 2. Town and Country Planning Act 1976 Law of Malaysia; 3. Structure Planning and Pahang Tenggara Towns by Jacqueline S.C. Foo Jernal JPBD No.3 Okt 1978 4. An outline of planning law by Sir Desmond Heap Sweet & Maxwell



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