Singapore to see 'most extensive urban transformation' as Govt aims to build better city

SIAU MING EN Today Online 17 May 18;

SINGAPORE — Cities must evolve and adapt to survive in an ever changing world and there is "no such thing as status quo", said National Development Minister Lawrence Wong during the Parliamentary debate on the President's Address on Thursday (May 17).

"We are either improving or we are declining and going backwards… So the choice for Singapore is simple – adapt or perish," said Mr Wong as he laid out the Government's blueprint to build a better city, one that is more innovative, inclusive and resilient.

Citing the various development projects spread across the island, Mr Wong said that the Government has a "single-minded commitment and mission to keep building and improving our city".

"I can confidently say that over the coming years and decades, Singapore will be undergoing its most extensive urban transformation yet," he added.

Major parts of Singapore will be transformed, including the east, where the area around the expanded Changi Airport is being reviewed to see how it can renewed and put to better use. The possibilities include developing new industries related to the aviation sector.

Over in the western part of Singapore, the authorities are looking at new industry clusters that can be located next to the new Tuas megaport and connected to other developments there, such as the Jurong Innovation District and Jurong Lake District.

Up north, the Government is bringing together multiple developments from Woodlands to Sembawang and Seletar, as well as the upcoming Punggol Digital District. This "Northern Corridor" can anchor new businesses and investments, said Mr Wong.

Residential estates are also part of the transformation, with the new Housing and Development Board (HDB) town in Tengah expected to be about the size of Bishan.

The city will also be extended further to the Greater Southern Waterfront, which will be three times the size of Marina Bay.

But Mr Wong noted that an outstanding city also needs to be socially inclusive, as he touched on the recurring theme of social mixing throughout the debate so far. It needs to be a place that embraces diversity, allows different groups to mix easily, and provides equal opportunities for people to participate.

This is not always the case in other cities, where the downtown areas are well-maintained but others are left to deteriorate and end up as urban slums. There is also a segregation of neighbourhoods elsewhere, between the rich and poor, between ethnic groups, as well as between the young and old, he added.

Mr Wong added that the Government has "worked very hard to avoid these problems in Singapore'. For instance, every HDB town has a balanced mix of residents across different ethnic groups and backgrounds. Every town also has a mix of public-private developments, as well as common spaces for residents of different backgrounds to socialise.

Mr Wong added: "Our housing and urban plans must continue to push back against the growing pressures of inequality and social stratification. We cannot just leave things to chance, but we must deliberately plan for a more equal and inclusive society."

To that end, HDB has been building more rental flats – with newer and better designs – alongside purchased flats in various towns to allow families to grow up in the same neighbourhood. Rental and sold units are also integrated within the same HDB block.

In Mr Wong's budget speech for his ministry earlier this year, he said HDB launched three Build-to-Order projects in Woodlands, Bukit Batok and Sengkang that contain both rental and sold units in the same block.

The authorities will also continually renew buildings and infrastructure to avoid ending up in a situation "where certain parts of Singapore are left to degrade and we end up with deteriorated neighbourhoods or towns, inhabited largely by lower-income or elderly residents".

But Mr Wong stressed that this is not just a government matter, and that it is a shared responsibility of the Town Councils and residents to take care of the neighbourhood.

Resilience is also required in Singapore's urban development, said Mr Wong, as the world faces climate change and other unpredictable threats.

This includes systems designed to counter any sea-level rises – such as the dike system in the polder development in Pulau Tekong – undertaking detailed modelling and engineering studies, and recommending appropriate protection strategies.

He added: "We want to build a city that reflects the aspirations, the values, and the spirit of our people. That's the work we have to do together over the next 50 years."