Friday, August 3, 2012

Shaping HDB's new kid on the block

Straits Times: Fri, Aug 03

IN THE wake of the controversy over the plans for the Bukit Brown Cemetery, one area that can certainly benefit from lay and professional ideas is the design of a new Housing Board estate. As development proposals are invited for the proposed Bidadari housing estate, it is hoped that many refreshing concepts will arise from the ground and will be discussed spiritedly. The HDB's brief for planners is to create a "distinctive and sustainable tranquil urban oasis". This is broad enough to accommodate a variety of unique interpretations so Bidadari can emerge as another distinctive town, in the same way Punggol is distinguished by the waterway running through it.

Singaporeans are more receptive now of the need to balance the competing demands of development and livability with those of the environment and history. At Bidadari, generational nostalgia will be felt more keenly as it was the resting place of many who are still remembered by their descendants scattered across the island. It was wrenching for them, in the early 2000s, to exhume the remains of those once close to them. Keeping part of the area's history alive in the new estate would be a fitting way to acknowledge the sacrifices made.

Retaining the characteristic rolling greenery there in some form would be welcomed by those who value the presence of nature even in manicured spaces. The HDB is in tune with such yearnings when it specified the need for development proposals to retain the hilly and lush character of the terrain, which is to also accommodate a regional park. Designs should aim to selectively preserve even what might appear a tad too wild. Singapore has emerged from being a city in the wilderness, but there must always be space for some wilderness in the city. Apart from providing much needed relief for city dwellers, it can also be a sanctuary for the flora and fauna that gamely flourish here against the odds.

Broader public involvement in ecological and historical issues related to development is essential as a useful backdrop to the novel planning ideas that might spring up. Environment aside, new concepts on the use of space should also help to foster connections among residents. Ultimately, of course, even the best of ideas have to be held to the principles of cost-effectiveness and a long-term, integrated approach to planning. In seeking inputs from all quarters, planners can look upon Bidadari as a test case of how new and untested ideas can dovetail with the sound management of limited resources to build distinctive and sustainable estates. Public engagement will also test their knack of forming a compelling motif out of the disparate ideas that surface.

Martin Koh | 86666 944 | R020968Z
Sherry Tang | 9844 4400 | R020241C
Senior Sales Director
DTZ Debenham Tie Leung (SEA) Pte Ltd (L3006301G)

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