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Speech by Minister of State Vivian Balakrishnan, at The Appreciation Dinner For Subject Group Members,
22 January 2003, 6.00 pm, The URA Centre Atrium

Relevant link -
Parks and Waterbodies Plan & Identity Plan

Habitatnews 2003-01: 23 Jan 2003 - Speech by Minister of State Vivian Balakrishnan, at The Appreciation Dinner For Subject Group Members, 22 January 2003, 6.00 pm, The URA Centre Atrium.

"The draft Master Plan 2003 will be exhibited in batches, region by region, over the coming months. The draft Master Plan exhibitions will provide another opportunity for the public to give their comments, before the Master Plan 2003 is gazetted at the end of the year."


"Distinguished Guests
Ladies and Gentlemen
Good evening.

I am pleased to be here this evening to thank all of you who have given up
many hours of your personal time to contribute your views on the Parks and
Waterbodies Plan, and the Identity Plan.

Two plans to guide Master Plan 2003 Review

At a basic level, generating a Master Plan involves making detailed decisions on land use, intensity, infrastructure and transportation. However, if you were to take a higher order perspective, it is about how we will live, work, play and dream in the Singapore of the future.

Notice that I said "we". Although the URA is the government agency tasked with master planning, it is really about how ordinary Singaporeans are going to live, work, play and dream. The plans must reflect the hopes of our people and the forms of the physical places that are important to us.

Consequently, the URA and MND have embarked on one of the most extensive public consultation exercises to date. More than 35,000 people visited the exhibition, and we received about 4,500 feedback replies. This shows Singaporeans' strong sense of attachment and ownership of places in Singapore and the willingness for the public to be part of the
decision-making process.

Three Subject Groups were formed to deliberate on the Plans in greater depth. The Subject Groups have since finalised their report and submitted their recommendations to us for consideration. The Subject Groups have played a critical role in the consultation process, working very hard to gather, sieve through and analyse the comments of people from diverse walks of life. Without the public's inputs and support, our plans would not be meaningful.


Strong endorsement of the two plans

The feedback gathered also showed strong public endorsement of our Plans, with over 97% of the feedback affirming the proposals shown in the Parks & Waterbodies Plan and the Identity Plan.

The Subject Groups have also supported most of URA's proposals, and have put forth many new ideas to further improve the recreational quality of our environment and retain the heritage of our surroundings. These new ideas will certainly keep URA very busy over the coming months, as we examine how best to implement and incorporate these proposals into the final Master Plan 2003.

The process has been important, perhaps just as important as the results. I believe all Singaporeans who have been involved would have had an opportunity to rediscover the uniqueness of our homeland. I am sure all of you would have discovered aspects of Singapore that you were not aware of previously. You would also know that you have played a role in shaping its future. You would look at a map of Singapore with new eyes and new memories. This experience and sense of uniqueness of our homeland is crucial in generating rootedness.


Translating plans into proposals for implementation

The challenge now is for us to move the proposals in the Parks & Waterbodies Plan and the Identity Plan, from the drawing board to the ground. The implementation of the proposals will have to be staged to take into account the funds available. Allow me to bring you through what we hope to see realised in the coming years.


Enhancing our lush greenery

We want to further enhance the lush greenery of Singapore.
More parks and a greater variety of parks

The proposed parks and park connectors that you see in the Parks & Waterbodies Plan will thus be incorporated into Master Plan 2003 and developed progressively over the next ten years.

Families will soon enjoy rustic fun at the wilderness park on Coney Island, off Punggol. We will also retain the mangroves at Kranji Nature Park and near the existing Sungei Buloh, as additional park land. To give parks a more distinctive identity, the new Woodlands Regional Park and Sengkang Park will be developed in a manner sensitive to the existing riverine habitats. We will also develop Jurong West Park and extend Labrador and Pasir Ris

To expand recreational choices, URA and NParks will look into providing a variety of parks to meet different needs. Parks in an urban setting, for instance, could be developed with a greater range of facilities like playgrounds and cycling tracks for family fun, while green spaces away from urbanised areas could be kept in their rustic state for the more adventurous to explore.

Greater access to parks and waterbodies

To enable more people to enjoy the beauty of the natural areas that Singapore offers, we will also provide greater access to our parks and waterbodies. We will have to ensure sufficient transportations means are available. We will also have to cater to the needs of our senior citizens.

However, in doing so, we will be mindful not to unduly disturb the natural habitats. For the Central Catchment, we can look forward to a canopy walk, an observation tower and more hiking trails and boardwalks. These are targeted for completion by Yr 2004.

In addition, URA and NParks are looking into the feasibility of connecting the Southern Ridges from Mount Faber through Telok Blangah Hill to Kent Ridge. If funds permit, we aim to implement a mid-level bridge linking Telok Blangah Hill and Mount Faber in the near term.


Recognising nature areas

There have been calls for us to safeguard our nature areas. Under the Parks & Waterbodies Plan, we have proposed to integrate some nature areas into parks. URA is now studying other nature areas as part of the Master Plan 2003 review, to see how some of them can be recognised and safeguarded on our land use plans in order to keep and protect them for as long as possible.


Conservation and enhancing identity

Let me now move on to the subject of conservation. Conservation is an emotive topic. It is also a delicate one, as conservation often is a balance between sentiment and pragmatism; and between the needs of affected parties
and the public at large.

The Identity Plan that URA has prepared talks not simply about the retention of old buildings, but also recognises that community life, streetscape and activities are unique anchors that contribute to the character, colour and identity of a place. However, this recognition would move us into an arena of even greater subjectivity.

The perception of "social memory" can differ greatly among different people and between age groups as different generations grew up with different experiences. How then do we decide whose nostalgia to retain? Can we provide for other competing land needs if these areas are preserved?

The characters of places evolve over time. Should we decide to adopt a hands-off approach or do we intervene to ensure identities are not inadvertently eroded through redevelopment? If we do intervene, what strategies are appropriate?


Working towards conservation

We had no ready answers to these questions. Inputs from stakeholders, property owners, residents and the general public were essential. The feedback we have received showed very strong support to conserve the historic buildings at Balestier, Jalan Besar, Tanjong Katong and Joo Chiat.

The Government will certainly take into account this strong support when studying the details of the proposed conservation of these sites.


Recognising colour and vibrancy

Outdoor dining adds vibrancy and street life to an area. With the support of residents and shop owners, URA will also draw up guidelines to facilitate outdoor dining in Coronation Road, Casuarina Road, Jalan Anak Bukit and Thomson Village. Some of these outdoor dining areas like those at Casuarina Road, are already existing today. We will recognise and enhance the character of these places.


Importance of social history

We must not forget that the social history of an area is an important component of its sense of place. It keeps memories of familiar places vivid and alive, and also serves as a link between the past and the future when our children are informed of the history behind these places.

As a start, we will put up storyboards at various locations in Changi to explain the historical, cultural and natural heritage of the area. URA and NParks will continue to incorporate this aspect more into our planning process and implementation plans.


Environmental improvement works

To realise our plans, URA is working with relevant Estate Upgrading Programme committees to implement the ideas. These include proposals such as the interim park at Jalan Leban; additional carparks at Jalan Leban and Casuarina and creating new links to Lower Pierce Reservoir.

The feasibility of implementing interim surface car parks at Anak Bukit, Balestier, Jalan Besar, Joo Chiat and Tanjong Katong is also being studied. We will also work collaboratively with various government agencies, the private sector and the community to further flesh out the details of the remaining ideas.


What's next

The draft Master Plan 2003 will be exhibited in batches, region by region, over the coming months. The draft Master Plan exhibitions will provide another opportunity for the public to give their comments, before the Master Plan 2003 is gazetted at the end of the year.


Commendable efforts

Lastly, it remains for me to thank all of you. My URA colleagues here this evening have worked very hard on the 2 Plans, often beyond official hours, and have shown much professionalism and enthusiasm throughout the process.

To all the Subject Group members, thank you for your time and ideas. I know that all of you held many discussions, site visits and dialogue sessions with the stakeholders, sacrificing much of your personal time even on weekends, just so that a thorough assessment could be put up to us for consideration.

Personally, it brings back memories of the good time that I spent with members of the two Focus Groups that deliberated on the Concept Plan 2001. To be honest, I was almost tempted not to say thank you to the Subject Group members. I am sure all of you enjoyed it, made new discoveries and new friends.

I want to also thank the 35,000 visitors to the exhibition, the grassroots organisations and other stakeholders for their active participation during the dialogue sessions; and to all who have given us your comments and views in this Master Plan 2003 review exercise.

Thank you."

Source: Mita News <mita_news@mita.gov.sg>

Date: Wed, 22 Jan 2003 19:05:21 +0800
Singapore Government Press Release
Media Relations Division, Ministry of Information, Communications and the
Arts, MITA Building, 140 Hill Street, 2nd Storey, Singapore 179369
Tel: 6837-9666
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