Sunday, 3 June 2012

'Yes, in my backyard'

Group of 500 residents want Govt to stick to plans to build rehab centres
By Robin Chan, The Straits Times, 2 Jun 2012

A GROUP of 500 residents in Mountbatten are fighting back against their neighbours' opposition to plans for rehabilitation centres for the elderly to be built in their estate.

In what appears to be a twist to the not-in-my-backyard (Nimby) syndrome, they have petitioned the Government to stick with its plans to build the centres in the void decks of Blocks 10 and 11 on Jalan Batu.

Made up mostly of elderly folk, the group includes residents who live in these two blocks. Their petition comes about a month after a group of 130 residents had petitioned for the facilities to be located elsewhere.

The second group made their move fearing that the authorities would drop the plans or build a centre over a communal fountain - as the first group had suggested - where many like to gather.

Some of them were also frustrated by the first petition, and believe it came from younger neighbours who did not want their void deck to be used, even though it would take up only about 30 per cent of the space.

'The younger ones don't understand,' said contractor A. Samat, 68, who lives in Block 10. 'It seems that some younger residents nowadays can only think of themselves.'

Housewife Gurdip Kaur, 55, whose son has been going to a temporary rehabilitation centre at Block 12 after being injured in a car accident, agreed. 'There are more old folk here than children,' she told The Straits Times. 'If the Government is doing something nice for us, we should let them.'

If built, the new centres will be about nine times the size of the temporary one, and have equipment to aid recovery from stroke or Parkinson's disease.

The neighbourhood rift had started last month, when about 130 residents who live in Blocks 10 and 11 submitted a petition to Mountbatten MP Lim Biow Chuan. Their concerns included the safety of children playing at the void decks, construction noise, and the likelihood of the resale price of their flats dropping.

They then proposed alternative venues for the centres: a nearby waste-bin collection centre, a central fountain next to Block 10, or the void deck of Block 1 or 14.

But the ceilings at Blocks 1 and 14 are believed to be too low to accommodate the centres, while the fountain is a popular gathering place for residents. The other blocks do not have void decks.

The petition not only fuelled national debate over the Nimby syndrome, but also angered other Jalan Batu residents who wanted the centres built in the void decks.

Hearing their concerns, retired businessman Michael Tan and a few friends in the neighbourhood began to gather support for the pro-centre petition. Said the 72-year-old, who has lived there for 16 years: 'The old folks here are unable to speak for themselves and the estate, so somebody has got to do something.'

The signatories include residents of Blocks 10 and 11, but it is not known how many of them live in these two blocks.

Mr Lim, their MP, has submitted both petitions to the Ministry of Health, which he said is still reviewing the case. He said the Government would take into account the views of the 'silent majority' as well.

For older residents like Madam Teh Kar Gim, 84, the greatest fear is that the fountain gets removed.

Said her neighbour Madam Kong Mei Lan, 74: 'It is such a nice place. Why would they want to build a centre right over that?'

Recent Nimby cases

MAY: About 40 people submit a petition against plans for a 260-bed nursing home facing three blocks of flats on a football field at Bishan Street 13. The Ministry of Health is still considering the feedback.

MAY: Residents in Jalan Batu oppose plans for a rehabilitation centre in the void decks of Blocks 10 and 11. Mountbatten MP Lim Biow Chuan tells contractors to stop work. MOH is reviewing the feedback.

FEBRUARY: Residents of Blocks 860 and 861 in Woodlands Street 83 petition against an eldercare centre planned in the void decks. MOH says construction will go ahead after considering the feedback.

FEBRUARY: Toh Yi Drive residents object to the building of studio apartments for the elderly in their neighbourhood. The Housing Board later says construction will go ahead.

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