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Penang keeps heritage listing

THE United Nations cultural agency will keep the capital of Malaysia's resort island of Penang on its list of World Heritage Sites after government officials agreed not to allow high-rise hotels.

Malaysian officials voiced fears last year that Georgetown would lose its status as a World Heritage Site because of plans to develop four hotels that would violate UNESCO restrictions on the height of new buildings within the city's core.

Penang officials approved the plans before UNESCO designated Georgetown as a World Heritage Site in July last year.

They had been uncertain whether to scrap the hotels' construction for fear of being sued by the developers.

UNESCO's World Heritage Committee decided in a meeting that ended on Tuesday in Seville, Spain, that it would keep Georgetown on the list, an official said ahead of a formal announcement.

The decision came after Malaysia assured the committee that the height of the planned hotels would be reduced to about 18 meters, abiding by UNESCO's prescribed height limit of roughly five stories for new buildings.

UNESCO added Georgetown and Malaysia's southern city of Melaka to its list last year, saying both "constitute a unique architectural and cultural townscape without parallel anywhere in East and Southeast Asia."


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