Ipoh Needs A “Focus Plan”


By Jerry Francis 

It is very obvious that preserving the buildings in the old city centre is one of the most sensitive issues in Ipoh today. Each time Ipoh Echo highlights it, there are vociferous comments from local residents as well as from Malaysians living abroad. The general consensus among them is to preserve the old buildings. They share the view that simply demanding for the old buildings in the city to be preserved as heritage will not be enough; a plan must be put in place to induce their owners to preserve the buildings.

Expecting building owners to spend large sums of money to repair without any hope of recouping their expenditures will not work. Not only does the old city centre need sprucing up, but it should be rejuvenated to promote economic activities by providing various incentives to the building owners.

Lack of such incentives have caused some owners to hang on to their dilapidated buildings in the hope that there would be an opportune time to repair them. This has resulted in the buildings becoming “eyesores” and some collapsing like those in Panglima Lane – along the city’s heritage trail, last week.

In view of the enthusiasm on preservation shown by the readers, I am reproducing some excerpts from their comments and suggestions, which were posted on our website.

According to a regular reader Steven Lee, Ipoh City Council needs to have a “focus plan” on how to develop the city and not to continue growing haphazardly. He said new developments in Ipoh don’t create new businesses but cannibalize from other parts of the city. “This creates a scenario where new developments are busy but old parts of Ipoh are slowly dying off. Yet MBI (city council) has not come up with plans to rejuvenate these parts of the city,” said Lee.

Lee added that asking building owners to spend a lot of money to repair/renovate their buildings with the uncertainty of recouping their costs will not work. The city council must provide more concrete plans on what is needed to be done in the area, as well as providing incentives such as grants, and waiver of assessment fees and quit rent.

Another reader Papan Jones thanked Ipoh Echo for igniting the fuse to such a provocative subject. “The comments thus far support the concerns for regaining the glories of Ipoh,” he said. According to him, there is no lack of love for the city, only the lack of political will and cohesive action to make Ipoh the unique city that tin built, a living testimony of the country’s wealth and modern development.

“Congratulations Ipoh Echo,” said Mohd. Hassan. “Your story appears to be a ‘wake-up’ call for the Ipoh City Council to take a serious look at the old city centre. It has drawn the personal attention of Datuk Bandar. However, instead of looking at it as feedback, Dato’ Roshidi claimed it as giving a negative perception of Ipoh City Council. Let us hope the special committee formed can come up with a master plan to deal with the ‘lingering problems’ in the old city centre.”

A former resident Ken Chan said: “I strongly feel that our beloved hometown still has its innate charm intact even though the general condition of the city has degenerated substantially over the years. Instead of indulging in finger-pointing and be conveniently carried away by the blame game, the political bigwigs in the city should take the initiative to establish a special commission to draw a master plan for Ipoh’s future growth and development into the next century.”

“It takes someone with leadership, foresight and a deep sense of commitment to start the ball rolling and the plan should be fine-tuned when there is a need to do so,” added Ken.

“Heritage is important. Tourists are important as they put money in the coffers. When all the old buildings are demolished and brand new monsters replace them, no one is going to visit Ipoh when it looks just like any other town. Buildings need to be maintained and not left to rot,” according to Ruth Iversen Rollitt, daughter of a well-known local architect.

Quoting Superyusrie, “Heritage preservation issues should be dealt with on a case by case basis. Assuming that each and every building in the city has heritage value and needs to be saved by the authorities and not by the owners themselves is terribly flawed and such an irresponsible attitude! If you value your old properties so much, why not stay back and take care of them yourselves instead of burdening others unnecessarily with the responsibilities, heritage or not!”

The above responses and many others from the readers are very heartening to me as it uplifted my enthusiasm to call for more efforts to induce economic development in the old city centre.

The old city centre must be given a new lease on life if we hope to successfully preserve the old heritage buildings. Can the Ipoh City Council do something about it?

6 thoughts on “Ipoh Needs A “Focus Plan”

  1. christkw,

    Thank you for your comments. I’ve come back for months now. I have to admit things have not been easy since. Projects get go-ahead slowly and procedures are tedious. If not making things worse, fees are low and in many cases payments are delayed. Without relying on other income, it’ll be difficult for someone fresh to start-up.

    But I am glad there are someone experienced to guide me along druing this difficult period. I am quite determined to stay in Ipoh to practice, and hopefully contribute to the city where I grew up.

    Feel free to visit my website
    Hopefully we get to work together at some point! 🙂

  2. Shyuan,stay back in your working place,coming back to Ipoh as an Architect,you would be surprised for the professional fees over here.
    I was asked to design a 3 storey bungalow in Meru and was offer 8k, I tell my client I better go back and watch Wah Lai Toi with my family.
    Another client offer me 25k but have to standby 24 hrs, I offer him back 30k to take care of my garden and dogs 24 hrs for 9 months.
    The best part is Majlis Perbandaran Ipoh building section have came out a new law for submission of plans, OSC becomes one sick centre,talking about paperless submission but they want more paper now.
    To be frank, Ipoh is 20 yrs behind Singapore and 10 yrs behind tiny kingdom call Brunei.
    Should ask those officers to train over they. Very disappointed………

  3. Hi Jerry,

    Great comments you have there! (and Ru Hui’s too- your blog on juxtapositions have been inspiring)

    As an architect from London who have recently returned to Ipoh, I am amazed by how haphazard the development in and around the city has been. New schemes are popping out every now and then, planned with houses and shoplots which are built with very little designs and thoughts given to details. Many old shops in the town are also torn down and rebuilt without souls.

    Having worked as an architect in different parts of the world, namely London, Hong Kong and Shanghai, I have witnessed how the heritage of these great cities are preserved and maintained. New buildings in these cities are also designed with high standards and careful attention to details. These buildings are extremely pleasing to look at, and potentially become legacy to many years to come.

    Ipoh is a great place to live and where I would love to settle. If there is something I could contribute to preserving the heritage, I would be more than happy to chip in. Please count me in.

  4. Well said! I am very impressed and touched that someone is concerned about Ipoh. I too love my hometown. I wrote a blog post on my thoughts of the state of ipoh heritage. If there is any mistake, please feel free to tell me. Thanks!

    Is there any chance that my post can be published in Ipoh Echo and how do I submit it to your newspaper? Thanks

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