Wednesday 18 July 2012

New amenities mooted for Toh Yi

Some recreational facilities to replace those making way for studio flats
By Tessa Wong, The Straits Times, 17 Jul 2012

TOH Yi residents look set to have more elderly-friendly facilities as well as recreational amenities that include replacements for those that were at the centre of a controversy in February.

A new jogging track, a redeveloped hardcourt space and a fitness corner are among new features the estate's grassroots leaders are proposing to residents for their neighbourhood's upgrading.

The plans were unveiled yesterday by Bukit Timah grassroots adviser Sim Ann, who is also Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Law and Education, ahead of a ministerial visit to the ward on Sunday by Health Minister Gan Kim Yong.

When asked whether some of the features were in response to the February controversy, Ms Sim said her grassroots leaders had been gathering suggestions since January last year, when Toh Yi became eligible for the neighbourhood renewal programme.

In February, about 230 residents had signed a petition opposing the Housing Board's plans to build studio apartments for the elderly at a site facing Blocks 11, 12 and 13.

They argued that the plot, with its basketball court, jogging track and a small garden, is the estate's main recreational spot. Also, the site would be inconvenient for the elderly as it is on top of a slope.

But many saw their move as yet another manifestation of the 'not in my backyard' syndrome.

Yesterday, an HDB representative at the media conference said the site will be cleared by the year end for the building of the new studio flats.

Grassroots leaders have suggested that the new jogging track be built around a green space facing Blocks 8 and 10.

Also planned is the revamp of an existing hardcourt space to include, among other things, a new fitness corner.

These will be within walking distance of the blocks surrounding the planned studio apartments for the elderly.

Seniors will see more age-friendly facilities built under the plan, including a 50 per cent increase in the number of covered walkways and ramps in the estate.

More sheltered drop-off points and an elevated walkway from Block 2 to the Bukit Timah wet market and hawker centre are being proposed as well.

Ms Sim said the various plans were drawn up after getting residents' feedback at dialogues and during house-to-house visits.

'(The suggestions) include ideas for improving elderly mobility in the estate... We have always wanted to make it significantly more convenient to move around in the estate,' she said.

The plans will be presented to residents for their feedback in the next two months, and they will vote on a final plan in November.

At least 75 per cent of the 1,600 households in Toh Yi must agree for the renewal programme to go ahead. The HDB will foot the bill.

These new amenities are on top of facilities the HDB said in March it will build for all to use: a children's playground and a community garden on the second floor of the block with studio flats.

Sales manager Davy Nah, 41, however, said the plans do not address the 'crux of the problem, which is the climb'.

He had opposed the studio flats because he felt the location was unsuitable for old people.

'Whatever we build to help the elderly, even if they are ramps and linkways, they are just stopgap measures.

'They don't solve the problem, which is the hassle of climbing uphill,' he said.

But Mr Tan Kock Tuan is particularly pleased with the plans for more covered walkways.

Said the 77-year-old retiree in Mandarin: 'When it rains, you have to dash from block to block. That's difficult for old people.'

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