Friday, August 3, 2012

Car lifts in driveway flout URA rules, owner told

Straits Times: Thu, Aug 02

A HOME owner in Upper Changi North installed two car lifts in his driveway because of a parking crunch in his neighbourhood.

The mechanisms, imported from Taiwan for $15,000 each, allow one car to be stacked on top of another.

Two days ago , Mr Peter Singh received a letter from the Ministry of National Development stating that the lifts were among "several large structures" installed without "prior planning approval".

The letter, citing Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) guidelines, said the lifts infringe on the required setback distance of 2m from the common wall he shares with his neighbour. The lifts were installed against that wall.

Mr Singh, 35, the chief executive of a local sustainable energy engineering firm, said he had not been asked to remove the car lifts and will work with the ministry's inspectors to resolve the issue.

He insists that the lifts are mechanical equipment and not structures, and hence should not be subject to the URA development control guidelines.

He claims that while the authorities did point out that the car lifts might not meet URA guidelines during an inspection of the renovation work in May, he was not told to stop work or remove them.

"I was shocked to receive the letter two months later," he said.

A URA spokesman said it "has investigated arising from feedback and found that the structures were erected without planning approval".

"As these have infringed on our planning requirements, enforcement action has been taken."

Mr Singh said there is a parking problem on the street he lives on. "Most neighbours have two or three cars and there is no way we can all park along the road," said Mr Singh, who owns five cars.

"We know we have a lot of cars and we wanted to be responsible about parking on the main road. The car lifts are a solution."

A car enthusiast, he said the idea for the lifts came from those in car workshops. The lift's platform can be raised to about 2m.

While similar lifts are used in industrial estates here, it is believed that Mr Singh is the first to use them in a private residential setting.

MHE-Demag, an engineering firm headquartered in Singapore, installed 97 similar units for shipyard Keppel FELs in 2007. A spokesman said it has received about half a dozen inquiries this year from home owners and architects for car lifts, but has yet to install any in residential homes.

"We advise home owners and their architects to seek approval from the relevant authorities before installing such a system," said its division manager for equipment sales Jeffrey Tan.

Mr Singh hopes the matter can be resolved quickly. "There are no laws against car lifts in the house... It's a grey area. I hope the Government paves a way for this issue to be addressed."

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