Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Flap over Punggol childcare centre plan

By Charissa Yong, The Straits Times, 19 Mar 2013

FIRST it was nursing homes. Now, some residents in one corner of Singapore are kicking up a fuss over a childcare centre soon to be built on a carpark rooftop garden near their homes.

About 50 Punggol residents raised their concerns on Sunday at a dialogue attended by Housing Board and Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) representatives.

A petition had also garnered close to 50 signatures as of yesterday, said its organiser, Madam Ow Bin Bing, an art and music teacher in her 50s.

The proposed centre will be on the rooftop of the Block 180 Edgefield Plains carpark, where a garden about the size of a football field currently stands.

A civil servant who wanted to be known only as Mr Lim, said: "The centre will spoil the aesthetic of the rooftop garden. There is a national need for childcare, but other places at ground level are more suitable."

Thirteen out of 20 households The Straits Times spoke to yesterday said they were against the centre being built over the garden.

Many lamented the loss of a common green space. Others said that the influx of parents picking up and dropping off their children would hold up the lifts meant for residents' use.

The rooftop garden is connected to the fourth floors of Blocks 181 to 184. Each block is served by two lifts on each floor.

"We inline-skate there twice a week and sometimes have picnic breakfasts. My kids have grown up with the garden," said a housewife aged 41 who wanted to be known only as Mrs Logaraj.

MSF is planning to build more childcare centres in Punggol due to growing demand, said a spokesman. The two centres in the Edgefield Plains neighbourhood are fully subscribed.

Punggol currently has 22 centres catering to 23 per cent of its pre-school children. MSF hopes to increase this to 50 per cent over the next few years.

It has been exploring various options with HDB, Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC MP Penny Low and grassroots leaders to meet residents' needs, said the spokesman.

Residents seem to be adopting a wait-and-see approach following the dialogue. Madam Ow has not yet submitted her petition.

MP Seah Kian Peng, who chairs the Government Parliamentary Committee for Social and Family Development, acknowledged the tension between residents' concerns and the need for childcare facilities. "Sometimes, it may just not be possible to find locations where everyone is happy. We should not forget what the desired outcome is. Is there a need for that childcare centre? If it is important, then the need must prevail."

MSF will be adding 20,000 more childcare places over the next four years, but some centres may be in facilities like carparks and hawker centres due to limited space, it was announced in Parliament last Thursday.

But some residents do not mind. Mr Steven Tay, 32, said he would not miss the garden, which he has visited only once. "It will be convenient for working parents. People shouldn't be so fussy."

Need to expand childcare capacity in Punggol: MSF
By Hetty Musfirah, Channel NewsAsia, 18 Mar 2013

The Social and Family Development Ministry said the two childcare centres within the Punggol Oceanus neighbourhood are fully subscribed.

Currently, there are 22 childcare centres catering to approximately 23 per cent of preschool children in the Punggol estate and there is a need to expand childcare capacity in the neighbourhood.

The ministry gave this response following a petition by some residents who are unhappy over plans to set up a childcare centre on the rooftop garden of a multi-storey carpark.

It's understood that the childcare centre aims to cater to about 170 children.

The ministry said the dialogue held on Sunday was for the grassroots leaders to engage residents on the proposed site.

It said to provide better support to working parents with young children, it is planning to increase the provision of preschool services by about 50 per cent over the next few years.

It has been exploring various options with stakeholders, beyond HDB void decks.

It said in doing so, it will ensure that the facility is safe, warm and welcoming for the children.

Residents have mixed views about the move.

Chai Lee said: "They say there are a few plots which are being proposed and this is one of them. Where are the rest, they never said."

Phei Lee said: "People who are concerned with the scenery because they do not have kids, so they tend to focus more on the things that they value.

"For me, because I have kids, so of course I value more about this issue. People (who) staying here - what is their focus, what are their needs, so right now, the needs are more childcare centres."

Eric Chua said: "It is a good idea because the gardens serve as a playground for the children and in any case, every time when I look down from my house, (on) the 14th floor, I do not see many people using the rooftop garden."

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