Thursday 18 October 2012

Punggol to have 7 new waterfront districts

Abundant flora will soften density; waterfront market for town centre
By Daryl Chin, The Straits Times, 17 Oct 2012

THE Housing Board has unveiled the next phase of development for Singapore's hottest new estate, Punggol, which is also known for being the first eco-town.

Estimated to be twice the size of Ang Mo Kio when it is complete, the eco-precinct is expected to boast seven new districts for waterfront housing, as well as abundant greenery to soften its projected high density.

Last night at the HDB Awards gala at Marina Bay Sands, National Development Minister Khaw Boon Wan painted the next phase of Punggol as part of the Government's plan to progressively raise the standard of HDB living while catering to a growing population.

"(New HDB towns) enable us to try out new planning concepts and ideas. Proven ideas can then be replicated in other new towns, as well as in old towns when we redevelop them," he said.

There are 26,400 completed HDB flats in the area, and about 6,400 private homes which are in the works.

The total number of HDB flats and private homes is projected to be 96,000 when development ends, which could happen in the next 15 years or so, depending on demand and economic conditions.

These will be spread out over seven new waterfront housing districts aside from Punggol Central, where most of the current developments are.

The first two to be developed within the next five years will be the Northshore and Matilda districts. The former will boast the tallest residential buildings in the area - at 29 storeys, and overlooking the Strait of Johor - while the latter will draw inspiration from the rich history of the area such as the iconic Matilda House.

Other districts which will come on stream later include Crescent, Punggol Point and Canal. Work at Waterway East and Waterway West has already begun.

The town centre will be expanded into a new "Punggol Downtown", which will have a waterfront market village, a learning corridor which will house educational institutions, and a creative cluster for commercial use relating to lifestyle needs.

Flora will also play a bigger role in the nation's first eco-town. The existing waterway will be enhanced with green spaces extending northwards. Coupled with the town centre, a new sports complex and the learning corridor, this area will form the "green heart" of the town.

"Green fingers" - or paths lined with greenery - will extend from the "green heart" to reach the coastal promenade and Coney Island, where a park is expected to be completed by 2014.

The 1.5km Old Punggol Road will be one such "finger". It will be closed to traffic and converted to a heritage trail for pedestrians.

Cycling tracks will also be built in tandem with new roads to encourage a clean commute, while the Western LRT loop is expected to start operations in tandem with development in the area.

The Land Transport Authority (LTA), with other agencies, is studying the feasibility of a road link between KPE/TPE and Punggol Central and expects to complete the study by mid-2013. The construction timeline will be determined after the technical feasibility study is completed.

Analysts The Straits Times spoke to said Punggol's development also echoes HDB's move towards concept living.

"HDB first started by just providing housing. They then moved to starting up self-sufficient satellite towns like Tampines and Woodlands. Now, they are going into addressing lifestyle needs," said Mr Chris Koh from property consultancy Chris International.

An exhibition on the proposed plans has been put up for public consultation at HDB Hub, starting today and continuing until Oct 28.

A new cyclists' haven
Cycling lanes to be built in tandem with new roads for clean commuting
By Goh Shi Ting, The Straits Times, 17 Oct 2012

MOVE over Tampines. Punggol may soon be the first housing estate with cycling lanes built in tandem with new roads.

The Housing Board has proposed the move as part of the estate's next phase of development in order to encourage clean commuting and improve connectivity.

At the moment, Tampines is Singapore's only cycling town. Unlike the plans for Punggol, its bike lanes were not built along with the road but were retrofitted.

Currently, Punggol MRT station and the LRT rail system serve residents in the young estate, which sees many adult and child cyclists hitting the pavements.

The proposals, along with other eco-friendly efforts, such as more green spaces, will be on display at HDB Hub in Toa Payoh, in an exhibition which aims to gather public feedback from today until Oct 28.

Cyclists who spoke to The Straits Times said this was a good chance for Punggol to be a cycling blueprint for other new towns.

"If you have a blank canvas, then do it right from the start," said Dr Paul Barter, cyclist and urban transport policy scholar at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy. He advised following international standards, such as having one continuous cycling track that does not require riders to dismount.

"It is easier to do a good job if you are starting from scratch," he said, "so you don't have to deal with strange situations such as bus stops or stairwells along the way. And it's also cheaper than having to redo it later."

Other avid cyclists living in Punggol hope new cycling lanes will solve the problems they currently face.

"Sometimes, pedestrians can't seem to hear the bell on my bicycle," said teacher Dawn Ling, 32, who cycles once a week to her school in Pasir Ris. "I have to come to a complete stop on the pavement, posing some danger to other cyclists and to pedestrians.

"Right now, the traffic is not that heavy but given the numerous housing developments in Punggol, traffic will definitely be expected to increase sharply."

Said Mr Dean Tan, 45, founder of cycling group Punggol Night Riders, which meets every Friday: "There is still a long way to go to improve the situation.

"There was a driver who told me to get off the road because I don't pay road tax," he said. He hopes cycling tracks will help drivers realise that cyclists have shared ownership of the roads.

From pungent pig farms to hot new eco-town
By Melissa Lin, The Straits Times, 18 Oct 2012

RETIRED air force officer Y.C. Teo still remembers the days when his house used to stink.

The 78-year-old has lived in a bungalow just off Old Punggol Road since the 1970s, when the area was populated by pig, chicken and fish farms.

"It was a horrible place," he said. "On rainy days, there would be a great stench. Nobody wanted to take a second look at the place."

These days, the farms are gone and Punggol is Singapore's hottest new estate. High-rise buildings have taken over the land that used to house the farms and their neighbouring attap- and zinc-roofed shophouses.

Phase two of plans to transform Punggol into a waterfront town was unveiled by the Housing Board on Tuesday. Public consultation began yesterday at the HDB Hub and will end on Oct 28.

As part of the plans, a 1.5km stretch of Old Punggol Road will be closed to traffic and converted to a heritage trail for pedestrians.

It is a road on which the history of Punggol has been written. It leads to the old Punggol Point, where long-time residents fondly recall tucking into seafood dishes amid the exhaust from buses turning around at the end of the road. Three seafood restaurants used to do thriving business there, said residents.

"Eating there was not just a treat, it was an experience," said naval architect Jerome Lim, 48, who was a regular visitor to the area as a child.

"It was alfresco dining," he added. "Tables would be laid out with plastic basins of hot water with tea cups and utensils inside."

Water sports centres and fishing villages also used to dot the shoreline.

Madam Alice Chu, a 56-year- old housewife who has lived in Punggol for nearly three decades, recalled how her husband used to take a speedboat he owned with some friends out fishing at night.

His catch often ended on the dinner table as dishes such as steamed crabs with belachan (shrimp paste).

They would also go out for rides to Marina Bay, where Marina Bay Sands now stands.

The demographic at the old Punggol Point has changed, said Madam Chu.

Crowds of rowdy seafood lovers have given way to young parents and their children in strollers, making their way around the Punggol Point Park.

The park boasts lotus ponds, a playground, kite-flying spots, boardwalks and a rustic park connector.

Amid the structural changes, Madam Chu laments the loss of the kampung spirit. Her daughter would, as a child, cycle around the estate, enter their neighbours' houses and open the refrigerator to grab a drink. No one would bat an eyelid because everyone knewone another, she said.

Mr Lim also hoped that further plans would keep some things the same.

"Change always happens, but it's nice if Punggol can retain some of its old charm and bring back the eateries and sea sports centres," he said.

He recalled seeing chickens running around with their heads chopped off at a farm and hearing the squeal of pigs in the evenings before they were fed.

He said: "I was raised an urban kid. Punggol was somewhere I didn't like visiting.

"But I'm glad now that I got to be in an environment that doesn't exist here any more."

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