Friday, February 1, 2013

Plan to grow space for rising population


Land reclamation key plank in bid to ensure quality of life amid growth

The Straits Times
February 1, 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 6.9million, 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 85per cent 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."


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