Thursday, February 7, 2013

S'pore of the future won't be a concrete jungle: Khaw


Next-generation public housing will keep country as a 'city in the garden'

The Straits Times - February 7, 2013

THE Singapore of the future will not be a concrete jungle to house a bigger population, said National Development Minister Khaw Boon Wan yesterday. Rather, his vision of it is Punggol - "multiplied by many times".

Speaking in Parliament during the White Paper debate, he said he is confident of keeping Singapore "a city in a garden" even as the population expands, and that "the best is yet to come".

Punggol North, for example, will eclipse the already-built Punggol South in design and liveability. "The next generation of public housing will be even more comfortable and better designed despite a higher population density," he promised.

The Government has made a major shift in its development strategy due to current problems, and will now build ahead of demand, he said.

The Ministry of National Development (MND), he added, is confident of raising the quality of public housing; in new estates, everything from transport links to barbershops will be there from the start.

At a separate media briefing yesterday, Housing Board director of planning Chong Fook Loong revealed that new estates have done away with the rectangular slab block and surface carparks of yore, in favour of hybrid blocks linked directly to carparks and topped with roof gardens.

Despite a greater density - Punggol has a gross plot ratio of 3.5, compared with 1.8 to 2.8 for Ang Mo Kio - new neighbourhoods will have more green spaces per dwelling unit.

The planning for Punggol was based on estates of 1,000 to 3,000 dwelling units with a common green area of 0.4ha to 0.7ha.

This compares favourably with older estates where a large neighbourhood park of about 1.5ha would cater to about 6,000 units, said Dr Chong.

During his parliamentary speech, Mr Khaw reiterated MND's goal of having 85 per cent of homes be within a 10- to 15-minute walk to a park by 2030.

But he acknowledged that rapid development would take its toll on existing green spots.

Recently, groups of residents have petitioned the authorities to save their green spaces slated for development.

The Government cannot protect every local green area, Mr Khaw said, and some will have to give way.

"It is painful, I know, for the local residents. Actually, it is more painful for MND. We seek your understanding."

The big picture is that 9 per cent of Singapore's land will still be set aside in parks and nature reserves - "highly significant for a small urbanised city", he said.

The HDB's goal, he added, is not to make estates more luxurious, but to achieve greater liveability through cost-effective design and construction.

He said that to promote a "kampung spirit", local residents will be involved in the estate planning.

In Tampines, for example, 15,000 residents recently gave their views on how to design the town hub.

Meanwhile, MND will continue to explore ways to deal with Singapore's land constraints.

Mr Khaw will chair an inter-ministerial committee on underground developments.


Martin Koh | 86666 944 | R020968Z
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