Bukit Timah residents, authorities reach compromise

Residents of Dairy Farm, Chestnut and Petir Road have reached an initial compromise with authorities over the development of a parcel of forest land. A local group will also be formed to continue generating ideas to guide the area’s future developments.

The area’s Member of Parliament Dr Vivian Balakrishnan, as well as representatives from the Urban Redevelopment Authority and the Land Transport Authority, met some 200 residents at a dialogue session on Saturday, a culmination of four months of intense planning, consultation and meetings. The session lasted for two-and-a-half hours.

The issue for the gathering: The future plans for a 1.86-hectare of forest land between Dairy Farm Estate and Petir Road.

In March, the residents found out that the URA was going to put up the land for sale in June. Some questioned the need to develop an area that over the years had been reclaimed by nature.

One resident asked: “There are plenty of areas around Singapore that are abandoned industrial estates. Why do you have to start the development … (of) that particular plot of land that is fully forested now, instead of taking some of the wasteland that the development and progress has created today?”

Others spoke of the need to preserve Singapore’s natural areas as a legacy for future generations.

RESIDENTS’ SUGGESTIONS INCORPORATED

Beyond simply grousing, residents had presented authorities with a detailed proposal, highlighting what authorities should consider when putting up the land for sale.

Among them: Placing restrictions on the height of the development so as to not block the pristine views of the many low-rise housing; and reviewing a proposal to extend a road along Jalan Pakis that may cut into a popular canal and jogging trail.

URA’s deputy director of physical planning, Mr Lim Teck Leong, shared one proposal that was incorporated into the plans: “Storey-height control will be one of the requirements. We intend to cap the storey-height between five to 15 (storeys).”

Authorities added they would also shelve plans to extend the road along Jalan Pakis, for now.

The URA also said it would relocate the development of a commercial site from along Dairy Farm Road to Petir Road, after residents noted the development would cause heavy congestion.

Dr Balakrishnan said the consultation process was an example of “the way forward” where “plans are shared in advance, views are heard, constructive suggestions are made, and then incorporated into plans”.

Later, on his Facebook page last night, he posted: “We will form a local group to continue generating ideas to guide the developments in this precious area in the years ahead. Thank you all for your contributions.”

RESERVE PROTECTED

Dr Balakrishnan also explained that the forest area in question had been part of the Government’s development plans for decades. He added that authorities had made sure the plot did not encroach on reserve area.

“We make long-term plans, and in Singapore, the PAP’s long-term plans are for 50 to 100 years. For decades, we have already convinced ourselves that we would preserve nature reserves. We said we will confine our future development to areas outside the nature reserve,” said Dr Balakrishnan.

Still, he assured residents that their views will be heard, and commended them for coming up with solutions. “People were not just posturing. People were actively looking for solutions, for improvements,” he said.

Resident Kevin Kho agreed, saying: “This consultative approach, this engagement from the ground is the way forward. We want to be part of our own nation-building.”

Dr Balakrishnan said there will be continued engagement with residents.

Source : CNA – 2012 Jun 10

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