Sunday, September 2, 2012

Petition against Upp Changi cluster homes

lStraits Times: Sun, Sep 02

A group of residents in a private estate of landed homes in Upper Changi have banded together to protest against the development of a cluster-housing project that they say will create a parking nightmare.

The petition, which has gathered 100 signatures from 85 of the approximately 110 households in Toh Estate, was handed in at a meeting with the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) and Dr Mohamad Maliki Osman, the MP for the area.

The residents are worried about a 1,600 sq m site at the end of a cul-de-sac, or dead end road, in Toh Drive, where two bungalows have been demolished to make way for eight strata-titled semi-detached houses, also known as cluster homes. Piling work has already begun.

Conventionally, each redeveloped bungalow in the estate has created space for a pair of semi-detached houses.

With what will eventually be twice the number of houses along the street, residents are worried that the narrow roads in the mature estate will be unable to accommodate the development.

Mr Jerry Chia, 58, who lives in Toh Drive, said he does not want the estate to be as cramped as those in Kovan or Serangoon Gardens.

As it is, the street is already congested on weekends, with cars of visitors to the Our Lady of Lourdes Nursing Home, said the counsellor, who has lived there for 20 years.

"I can't imagine what it's going to be like during Christmas or the Chinese New Year," he said.

The petitioners have a second concern - that this cluster development may pave the way for more such developments in the neighbourhood, and change the character of the largely low-rise estate.

Some residents are already speculating that a plot of land in Toh Avenue may be next up for a cluster development.

Mr Nicholas Doggett, 54, a music teacher who has lived in the estate since 1977, said: "If one happens, how are you going to stop the others from doing it?"

The developer of the eight cluster homes, Regal Development, could not be reached despite several attempts. How much the two bungalows were sold for, and the cost of each of the eight cluster homes, is unknown.

The URA, however, does not think there will be a parking problem. It noted that the developer of the project is providing 18 parking spaces for the eight homes - more than twice the minimum requirement of one space per unit for conventional landed housing.

"Together with the Land Transport Authority, we have assessed that the existing road network can support the proposed strata landed housing development without causing undue congestion," said a URA spokesman.

Congestion aside, the petitioners also take issue with how the development, which will have a swimming pool and barbecue pits, resembles a mini-condominium.

Mr Chia said: "You seriously can't put a condominium in an enclosed area here... but the URA insists that because they're semi-detached in form, they are correct."

The URA said that strata landed homes are allowed alongside landed ones as long as the plot size is at least 200 sq m.

"Strata landed housing is hence not any more dense than conventional landed housing," said its spokesman, who cited Sungrove in West Coast Grove and Chatsworth Park in Tanglin as developments that have co-existed with landed houses "without much problems".

Mr Chris Koh, the director of property company Chris International, said that while the petitioners' concerns are valid, it is unlikely the authorities will stop the Toh Drive development, given that the project has already been approved.

"Perhaps a balance can be struck," he said, suggesting that the authorities assure residents that such housing projects will not mushroom across the estate.

The authorities could also ensure that residents of the cluster homes park only within their compound, he added.

The URA said it will continue to work with the developer to ensure that the project is developed sensitively and takes into consideration residents' feedback.

Mr Cheah Swee Keat, 52, a self-employed businessman who penned the petition, said: "If the URA can see that the parking problems can lead to social problems, then they should not allow such redevelopments... The URA at the planning stage can prevent that from happening."

  
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