Saturday 2 February 2013

Land Use Plan

Plan to grow space for rising population
Land reclamation key plank in bid to ensure quality of life amid growth
By Rachel Chang, The Straits Times, 1 Feb 2013

MORE land will be reclaimed, new towns built and golf courses redeveloped as part of a government plan to accommodate a larger population by 2030.

Two days after releasing a White Paper which included population projections of up to 6.9 million, the Government yesterday detailed in a Land Use Plan how it would maintain quality of life amid the expected population growth.

A key plank was reclamation, chiefly around Tuas and Pulau Tekong.

The Ministry of National Development (MND) said those works would increase the country's land area by some 5,200ha by 2030.

All in, Singapore in 2030 will have 76,600ha of land, up from the 71,400ha it currently has.

The second part of the plan involved maximising the use of existing land.

To do that, farmland would be redeveloped, some golf courses would not have their leases renewed, reserve land would be unlocked, and military activities would be consolidated onto a bigger Tekong to free up space on the Singapore mainland.

Commenting on the Land Use Plan on Facebook, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said he was "confident that Singapore will continue to offer a good quality living environment, and be one of the most liveable cities in the world".

Land availability aside, the 69-page document also lifted the veil on forthcoming Housing Board towns.

In the next two to three years, the launching of flats will begin in Bidadari and Tampines North. The former will ultimately yield 11,000 home units, and the latter 21,000.

Tengah will be rolled out in three to five years, and is slated to supply 55,000 units.

The north of Punggol will be fully realised, and at completion, the new town will contain 96,000 units - triple its current size.

In addition, new homes will sprout in the former Bukit Timah Turf Club, Kallang Riverside, Keppel and Bukit Brown.

The Land Use Plan also envisions at least 13 million sq m of commercial space outside the city in the form of regional centres in Jurong, Woodlands, Paya Lebar and Seletar.

This will allow Singaporeans to work closer to where they live, with the bonus of easing peak-hour traffic congestion.

With the relocation of port operations to Tuas, a new southern waterfront city will extend from Marina Bay to Pasir Panjang Terminal, through Keppel Channel and Telok Blangah.

While green cover is likely to drop slightly, MND has set itself the target of having 85 percent of homes within a 10- to 15-minute walk of a park by 2030.

But even as the Government delved deeper into its future infrastructure plans yesterday, several ministers found themselves still responding to the adverse reaction some Singaporeans had towards the 6.9million headline population figure.

Yesterday, Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean stressed that the White Paper had Singaporeans' interests at heart.

He said that the economy and the population will be growing at a slower pace than in the past, and the White Paper's projections are a compromise between speeding and stagnating.

Minister in the Prime Minister's Office Lim Swee Say, in turn, said at a national conversation event yesterday, that the paper was a "good exercise" that will help the country identify potential challenges ahead.

He said that if Singapore had, 10 years ago, discussed the possibility of hitting the current population figure of 5.3 million, a lot of the infrastructure bottlenecks of today might have been averted.

Meanwhile, National Development Minister Khaw Boon Wan said that it is a "legitimate reaction" for Singaporeans to think that "the planners must be mad".

"Of course, they ask good questions like, 'How can you be sure? More population, but quality of life will remain the same or in fact be even better?'

"Actually the answer is yes," he said. "It's possible."

He said that it all came down to careful planning: "If you can plan sensitively and invest in infrastructure ahead of demand, (we) can have a very nice city life...

"So please don't worry."

Three new towns to offer about 90,000 homes
Bidadari, Tampines North, Tengah to provide both public, private housing
By Daryl Chin, The Straits Times, 1 Feb 2013

THREE new towns will provide some 90,000 homes in the next few years while other sites such as Keppel and Bukit Brown could also be developed in future.

The new estates - Bidadari, Tampines North and Tengah - will offer both private and public housing, according to the Ministry of National Development's Land Use Plan, which was unveiled yesterday.

The Government has committed to a supply of 700,000 new homes by 2030 to house a bigger population.

Bidadari, a former cemetery whose graves were exhumed in 2001, will offer 11,000 units over the next three years.

Concurrently, Tampines North, which now has many open spaces, will also be further developed to yield 21,000 homes.

Tengah, in the west, is now being used as a training ground by the military but some parts will make way for 55,000 homes in about three to five years' time.

Houses could also be built in areas such as the former Bukit Turf Club, Kallang Riverside, Keppel and Bukit Brown to allow more people to live closer to their workplace. This would reduce commuting time and traffic jams, said a ministry spokesman.

She added that these areas could be developed by 2030 but this will depend on demand.

According to the plan, more homes will also be built on vacant land in existing estates.

Eco-town Punggol will become one of the largest HDB towns with 96,000 homes.

In an interview at the HDB Hub yesterday, National Development Minister Khaw Boon Wan said much planning has gone into ensuring that the amenities and design features in the new sites are attractive to home buyers.

For instance, parts of Bidadari's undulating terrain and existing greenery will be retained while Tengah, with its largely un-changed landscape, could be a test bed for new designs.

Of the new towns, property analysts expect high demand for homes in Tampines North and Bidadari.

Tampines North is part of Tampines, which is already well-developed, while Bidadari is only a 15-minute drive to the city.

Said ERA Realty spokesman Eugene Lim: "People have seen how a former cemetery like Bishan has been converted into a bustling town. They might expect the same for Bidadari."

Mr Chris Koh, director of property consultancy Chris International, noted that with further development in current estates, "home owners should not be surprised when new houses sprout in their backyard, which may not be a bad thing as it also rejuvenates an area".

As for the new areas, Mr Lim said Keppel and Kallang Riverside would likely have high-rise buildings while Bukit Brown and the former Bukit Turf Club could support a lower-density housing model.

"There will be something to cater to all needs," he added.


Reclamation will add land the size of nine AMK towns
By Jessica Cheam, The Straits Times, 1 Feb 2013

SINGAPORE will grow its land area by 5,200ha through reclamation between now and 2030, to cater for a projected population of between 6.5 million and 6.9 million by then.

The increase in land area will be the size of nine Ang Mo Kio towns.

The Ministry of National Development's (MND) Land Use Plan, released yesterday, said land will be reclaimed as part of a wider urban planning strategy to support Singapore's growing population.

Besides reclamation, some reserve land, which is now vacant, will be developed. And other pockets of land with lower-intensity uses, such as old industrial areas and some golf courses, will be redeveloped.

Most of the land to be reclaimed will be at Pulau Tekong for military training use, and at Tuas Port and Jurong Island for use by industry. Other areas include Tuas and Pasir Panjang for industry and port use.

Singapore's total land area will grow to up to 76,600ha, up from about 71,400ha currently, said the plan.

The plan also outlined areas for reclamation beyond 2030. These include Marina East, Simpang, Changi East, Sungei Kadut, Pasir Ris, and around the Western Islands.

Experts The Straits Times spoke to said several matters to consider include territorial sea boundaries and environmental concerns.

Civil engineering professor Yong Kwet Yew at the National University of Singapore said that reclaiming land, even if within Singapore's boundaries, can have an impact on hydrodynamics and the tidal flow of waters in Singapore, as well as coastal waters of neighbouring countries.

Future reclamation will be more costly because the depths of water will be deeper, at 20m to 30m, with some areas going beyond that, he said.

That will require much more imported sand. Singapore has faced difficulty importing sand in recent years, as countries such as Indonesia and Malaysia moved to ban the export of sand to the Republic.

Prof Yong said that there are other more cost-effective ways to make room for more people. These include intensifying the use of existing land by building higher or underground. "These are 'low-hanging' fruits to work on, and if there is more demand for space, we can look at reclamation and use of space deep underground," he said.

The MND said the 2008 Master Plan is being revised and updated to support the Population White Paper. "Over the long term... we will continue to exploit technology and implement innovative solutions to optimise our land use," it said.

Golf courses to make way for housing needs
By Daryl Chin, The Straits Times, 1 Feb 2013

SEVERAL sprawling golf courses will be cut up, moved or closed as the Government seeks land to house Singapore's growing population by 2030.

The Land Use Plan yesterday confirmed what many golfers had been fearing for several years: that the leases for their golf clubs might not be renewed.

The plan did not specify which of the country's 18 golf clubs - occupying some 1,500ha of land - would have to make way for redevelopment, but Keppel Club and the Singapore Island Country Club (SICC) are tipped to be at the top of the list.

Both have eight years to run on their leases.

A spokesman for the Ministry of Law, which oversees the Singapore Land Authority, said the courses here are generally on a 30-year lease, and the majority of the leases will expire by 2030.

"Some golf courses would have to be phased out and the land put to other uses. For these golf courses, we would not be able to extend the lease," she said, adding that the ministry is now working with planning agencies to determine which golf courses can have their leases extended.

At least one club, Laguna National, is safe for now as it secured a lease extension last year to remain in its Tanah Merah location until 2040. Part of the deal, however, includes building a new hotel on its grounds.

While the Keppel Club has declined comment, its members told The Straits Times that they have been warned that the lease is not likely to be renewed.

This is because it sits on prime land just across from Sentosa, and the Keppel area has also been identified as a potential redevelopment site under the plan, though no further details were given.

Members were told of three possible outcomes: that the club might be relocated to Lorong Halus; moved to an empty plot in Seletar; or be allowed to lease one of SICC's courses.

Meanwhile, an SICC spokesman said it is still waiting for its landlord, the national water agency PUB, to give more details on lease renewal after writing in a number of times.

PropNex chief executive Mohamed Ismail said carving up SICC makes sense, given that it is the only one with four 18-hole courses.

SLP International's head of research Nicholas Mak added that the move was to be expected as such courses benefit a small minority.

He said: "Golfers, who make a small minority of the proposed 6.9 million people, can head to Malaysia if need be.

"Singapore must use its limited land in an efficient manner, to better handle the future."

More green spaces even as Singapore grows
By Jessica Cheam, The Straits Times, 1 Feb 2013

BY 2030, 85 per cent or over eight in 10 residents will be living within a 10-minute walk to a park.

This figure will be up from the current 80 per cent, as mapped out by the Land Use Plan released yesterday. The promise is that even as Singapore gears up for a population of up to 6.9 million, its urban landscape will still remain largely green.

The Ministry of National Development outlined the vision to develop more green spaces in Singapore, even as some 700,000 more homes are being built by 2030.

New towns will spring up in Bidadari, Tampines North and Tengah, and pockets of land across the central areas and existing mature estates will be redeveloped.

Well before 2030, there will be 360km of park connectors by 2020 - up from 200km today - connecting more than 350 parks and linking cultural and historical attractions, including intra-town cycling networks.

National Development Minister Khaw Boon Wan assured Singaporeans yesterday that the quality of life will not be compromised even as Singapore develops.

Because the new towns will be built on greenfield sites, "we have maximum opportunity to plan even better (with) new layouts and new building forms," he said.

"I certainly look forward to the day when more and more will be cycling to work."

The plan also outlines how residents will be able to "move seamlessly" between nature spots.

Some 900ha of reservoir and 100km of waterways will be opened up by 2030, and the green rail corridor along the old Malayan Railway track has also "opened up an opportunity... to provide a variety of leisure and recreational choices", said the plan.

Professor Heng Chye Kiang, dean of the School of Design and Environment at National University of Singapore, welcomed the Land Use Plan yesterday. "This is a good opportunity to make Singapore even more liveable. Sometimes you need a certain population density to make certain solutions and amenities viable."

He noted, however, that there is an infrastructure lag at the moment and the Government could speed up the programmes to relieve current bottlenecks such as in public transport. Ultimately, ensuring that Singapore remains highly liveable comes down to the planning - a point also raised by Mr Khaw yesterday.

"The bottom line is this, you've seen the plans... many pages, hundreds of data, figures, but the underlying principle is not quantity, is not statistics. The underlying principle is quality."

Two new sites declared nature areas
By David Ee, The Straits Times, 2 Feb 2013

SOME species of rare plants and animals will get more protection in Singapore, with two new sites designated as nature areas in the Government's latest Land Use Plan.

In one, marshes, woodland, and a river system near Jalan Gemala in Lim Chu Kang will be conserved, though the exact boundaries are still unknown.

The other, off the northern shore of Pulau Tekong, comprises a submerged reef at Beting Bronok and coastal mangroves on the tiny island of Pulau Unum.

The move, which brings the number of nature areas in Singapore to 20, has been lauded by conservationists.

Nature areas, as defined under the Urban Redevelopment Authority's Master Plan 2008, are identified for their biodiversity and "will be kept for as long as possible until required for development". Natural flora and fauna in these areas "will be protected from human activity" and ecological studies may be required before any future development.

Rare plants such as the Fox grape have been sighted in Jalan Gemala, while locally endangered mangrove and mollusc species are found at Beting Bronok and Pulau Unum. Sea stars and sea urchins can also be seen there.

Wildlife consultant Subaraj Rajathurai called the northern coast of Pulau Tekong "a very important site" with birds such as the Blue Flycatcher, which are nearly extinct on the mainland.

Beting Bronok, said marine biologist Karenne Tun, 42, is a rocky intertidal area that is small but ecologically rich, with species similar to those found at Chek Jawa on Pulau Ubin.

Access to the area is currently restricted due to its proximity to military areas on Pulau Tekong. It is not immediately clear if the public will be granted access.

Jalan Gemala, said Mr Subaraj, is less known among conservationists, but supports an important colony of fireflies.

"It's good that they're conserving these areas. It's a step in the right direction."

But nature lovers are concerned by other aspects of the new Land Use Plan. For instance, the sea around southern island Pulau Hantu has been earmarked for possible reclamation.

"That would be devastating to the marine ecosystem," said Mr Subaraj, referring to the coral reefs in the island's surrounds.

The island's nearby subtidal reefs account for over 10 per cent of those remaining here, said Dr Tun. Over 60 per cent of coral reefs here have been lost to development, leaving 5 to 10 sq km left.

In a statement, the Ministry of National Development said that there were "no immediate development plans" for Pulau Hantu, and that environmental impact assessments would be done before any reclamation work.

Conservationists are also calling for more clarity regarding the Government's plans for land use beyond 2030.

Said environmental blogger Ria Tan: "There's not enough detail on ecology in the report, so I'm not sure how much it's been factored in. I would like to know about the thinking that went on behind it."

Professor Victor Savage, who researches sustainable urban development at the National University of Singapore, added: "There could have been better clarification from the authorities... especially where (the plans) impinge on areas of natural value."

Two new commercial belts to bring jobs closer to homes
By Hetty Musfirah, Channel NewsAsia, 31 Jan 2013

Two new commercial belts will be developed to locate more jobs nearer to homes.

It is also part of efforts to ease congestion to the city centre and facilitate greater use of public transport.

The target is for public transport to make up 75 per cent of all journeys, compared to the current 60 per cent.

Roads take up 12 per cent of Singapore's land space.

And given a limited land supply, there are constraints to build more roads and other facilities for private transport.

To get more people to choose public transport, extensive plans have already been announced to ramp up capacity on buses and trains.

But as Singapore's population continues to grow, changing travel patterns will also be key.

Currently, major employment centres are located in the West and in the city. And there's high travel demand to these areas during morning peak hours, as housing towns are in the North and East. So the new commercial belts are expected to help spread the load better.

There will be an innovation corridor in the North in 10 to 15 years' time.

It will include the Woodlands Regional Centre, Sembawang, the future Seletar Regional Centre and Punggol, and act as a major employment node for people living in the North and North-east.

There will also be more land for new business activities when existing shipyard facilities in Sembawang are phased out.

And in the South, there will be a new waterfront city for more commercial and housing developments.

It will extend from Marina Bay along the waterfront from Keppel, through Telok Blangah to Pasir Panjang Terminal.

Experts say for decentralisation to work, the type of jobs within the commercial belts must be attractive enough.

Dr Wong Tai Chee, Urban Geography & Planning at the National Institute of Education, said: "The scope, the scale and quality of services to be provided, to be developed in the regional decentralised centres, must be substantial - big enough to attract enough businesses. Otherwise, the economies of scale won't be big enough to attract business, that will be a failure.

"That will be a serious matter to look into. If you can cut down the commuting time and also the commuting distance, and make jobs more available near homes for at least a certain proportion of the population, this will be good. Economically, it will also help to enhance the land values of the areas in the North and South corridors."

There should also be better transport links.

Associate Professor Gopinath Menon, School of Civil & Environmental Engineering, Nanyang Technological University, said: "Good integration, so if people want to change from train to bus, bus to train, train to taxi, it should be very convenient, because people do not like transfers, it takes time so that's the most important thing, make it very convenient and also attractive."

To facilitate this, there are plans to introduce community buses which operate during specific period of the day.

By 2030, travelling to the new commercial belts will be enhanced with the new Cross Island Line and the Thomson Line.

Drivers can also make use of the new North-South Expressway.

To better optimise use of roads, the reversible flow scheme may also be introduced on certain expressways so that there will be more lanes to cater to the heavier traffic flow during peak periods.

Why population density is lower than Hong Kong's
By Robin Chan, The Straits Times, 2 Feb 2013

THE Ministry of National Development explained yesterday how it arrived at the conclusion that Singapore's population density in 2030 would still be much lower than that in Hong Kong.

It is based on how it calculates the density.

In the methodology it uses, only land that can be developed is taken into account, not the total land area of Singapore.

This approach excludes land used for water catchment, military grounds, ports and airports, as well as wetlands, woodlands, or barren land, that cannot be developed for homes, factories or office buildings.

This is a more "accurate representation", the ministry said in a statement.

A conventional calculation of population density takes the total population and divides it by the total land area, to arrive at what is known as the gross population density, or how many people there are for every one square kilometre.

But, the ministry said: "Gross population density does not adequately reflect a city's urban environment, or its developmental

constraints, as a city will have some areas which cannot be developed."

Using this gross density method, Singapore's density, at about 7,300 people per sq km, is higher than Hong Kong's 6,600 people per sq km, giving the impression that it is more crowded here.

But Singapore actually has more land area that can be developed (500 sq km) than Hong Kong (317 sq km), according to the ministry's data.

While Hong Kong has a larger total land area of 1,108 sq km, about two-thirds of that is hilly terrain that is very difficult to build on.

Hence, by using the figure on the land area that can be developed, Singapore's density rises to 10,600 people per sq km.

Hong Kong's density, however, more than triples to 22,110 people per sq km.

Professor Heng Chye Kiang, dean of the National University of Singapore's School of Design and Environment, agrees with the ministry's approach.

"By comparing net figures, it gives you a much better sense of the real perceived density in urbanised areas," he said.

The density comparison figures caught people's attention following the release of a White Paper on Population on Tuesday.

Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean had said that despite a rise in population from 5.3 million to about 6.5 to 6.9 million by 2030, Singapore's density would rise to about 13,000 people per sq km, which is still considerably lower than that of Hong Kong.


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