Sunday, 24 February 2013

A plan to house 2 million more people

Veteran architect proposes building up southern coast
By Leonard Lim, The Straits Times, 22 Feb 2013

Even as the debate continues over the 6.9 million figure in the population White Paper, veteran architect Tay Kheng Soon said at an industry lecture last night that Singapore can accommodate a population increase of up to two million.

All two million would be housed on a 2,187ha swathe of land along the southern coastline, stretching from Pandan Reservoir in the west to the East Coast Park beach.

Land where the Keppel and Marina Bay golf courses are currently sited would make way for housing, as would the port area once container port functions are consolidated in Tuas in the long term.

Space around the Gardens by the Bay would cater to the super-rich, with homes built on the sea to entice those keen on waterfront living. Some parts of the south would also be for schools, offices and factories.

And while this might mean Singapore loses its biggest beach, he said all other areas, including green and heritage spaces, need not be "disturbed".

Mr Tay's "southern intensification" proposal comes two weeks after an intense parliamentary debate over the population White Paper that projects Singapore's population rising by 1.6 million by 2030.

"What I hear is a lot of grumbling (about the White Paper), so let us as a profession contribute," said the former president of the Singapore Institute of Architects who is known for his outspoken and at times radical views.

The 73-year-old said his ideas came about before the policy document was unveiled, and were several years in the making. "I've been wanting to know the density limit for Singapore."

Unlike the Government Land Use Plan which also proposes reclaiming more land and consolidating military activities onto Tekong Island, his proposal focuses on the single large strip of land, building more densely on it.

Based on an assumption of 50 sq m of floor area per person that is comparable to a region in Virginia on the East Coast of the United States, a gross plot ratio of 4.5 can accommodate 1.968 million, he said. If this ratio is lowered to 4, then about 1.75 million people can be housed in the south.

Gross plot ratio is a measure of the density of building units in a given space. He said that the highest ratio here currently is 3.24, in Punggol.

Meanwhile, he proposed restructuring estates in other parts of Singapore, by having a central corridor in each. Schools, businesses and other amenities would be located along it, to build social cohesion and bonding.

The lecture drew a crowd of about 100 guests, including vice-president of the Economic Society of Singapore Yeoh Lam Keong.

Despite the seemingly controversial nature of the southern intensification plan, no one raised questions about it during a question-and-answer session after the lecture, at the Singapore Institute of Architects' premises in Tanjong Pagar.

Mr Yeoh, who has been following the population White Paper debate, told The Straits Times later: "Physically you might be able to squeeze in another two million... but it doesn't fully measure or avoid the negative impact on social well-being from increase in income and wealth inequality and overcrowding in common facilities."

Responding, Mr Tay said: "That's why I proposed not intensifying land use in other parts of Singapore, so that we can build social cohesion there. It will be like New York in the south of the country, and Bali in the north."


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