‘No deal made’ for Sungei Road vendors to move to Golden Mile car park

‘No deal made’ for Sungei Road vendors to move to Golden Mile car park
A man putting up a sign prohibiting the sale of goods at the Golden Mile carpark. Photo: Jason Quah/TODAY
Published: 3:38 PM, July 12, 2017
Updated: 5:19 PM, July 13, 2017

SINGAPORE — The plan for some Sungei Road flea market vendors to relocate this weekend to the rooftop car park of Golden Mile Tower is in disarray, after the owner of the site told TODAY that no agreement had been struck.

LHN Group, which owns the car park, has also lodged a police report against the contractors hired by the Association for the Recycling of Second Hand Goods to demarcate the lots for the vendors on Tuesday (July 11) in preparation for the move.

The police confirmed a report has been made.

In an email response to TODAY’s queries, LHN spokesman Jeremy Ong said on Wednesday: “We wish to clarify that, to date, there has been no commercial agreement reached that we have allowed Sungei Road Market to operate on the 6th level of Golden Mile Tower’s carpark, nor has any money been exchanged.

“Any infringement will be considered as illegal trespassing, including the painting of lots which was done without our permission. We consider this as an act of vandalism.” 

When TODAY visited the site on Wednesday, two signs stating “No Trespassing, No sale of good, No illegal painting of lot” had been put up. 

The signs were put up after contractors hired by the association were seen on Tuesday marking some 90 lots, measuring 1.2m by 2.4m, at the car park. 

On Monday, which was the last day of operations for Singapore’s largest and oldest flea market, the association’s chairman Koh Eng Koon told the media that it has managed to secure a new site for the Sungei Road flea market vendors.

The deal with Golden Mile Tower car park was struck last week, and the group has paid S$10,000 in rental fees for the first month of operation at the new premises, Mr Koh had said to reporters. 

Meanwhile, the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) has said planning approval is required before the space can be used as an outdoor market.

However, when contacted on Wednesday, Mr Koh backtracked on the comments which he made to the media on Monday. He said that no “official contract” was inked with LHN because they were “waiting on URA” to get back on “how the submission process should go”.

“But we have discussed terms with (LHN) and they were agreeable to rent us the space at S$10,000 per month. We’ve discussed the terms already, but (we are) not going ahead before (getting) URA’s approval,” he told TODAY in Mandarin.

He admitted that the association did not inform LHN that its contractors were going to start demarcating lots at the site on Tuesday, so if the company wishes to lodge a police report, there is “nothing we can do”.

“We wanted to prepare things so that vendors can move in eventually, but we did not inform the management on our part ... We can restore the space to its original state if necessary,” said Mr Koh, who added that he has informed the vendors that the move may be delayed as they are waiting for the URA’s approval. 

Mr Koh claimed that the URA has not advised the association on how to proceed with the application for approval, and it needed assistance to understand the terms and conditions.

However, the URA said on Wednesday in response to TODAY’s queries that it has advised the association on the application procedure, after it received enquiries on Tuesday from Mr Koh and other representatives. However, it has not received any application, a URA spokesperson said.  

The spokesperson said the property owner, operators or their appointed agent will have to submit a change of use application with details of the proposal.

“If the applicant is not the property owner, prior consent from the property owner is required for the use of the car park space,” the spokesperson added.

Separately, the applicant will need to obtain clearances from “technical agencies” such as the Singapore Civil Defence Force on fire safety, as well as the development’s management. The consultation with these parties can be done in parallel to the submission of the application to URA.

In general, it takes about 10 working days to process change of use applications, the URA said. It added that more time may be required “depending on the completeness of the submission and the complexity of the proposal”.

About 10 vendors, including 70-year-old Madam Teo Am Moy, visited Golden Mile Tower car park on Wednesday in preparation for the planned relocation. She said the association has told vendors that the relocation has not been confirmed.

“The car park space is big and nice. It would be good if we can relocate here,” said Mdm Teo, who has been selling items including clothes and shoes at Sungei Road flea market for 18 years.

First set up in the 1930s, the Sungei Road flea market, also known as Thieves’ Market, is the oldest and biggest flea market in Singapore. Located between Jalan Besar and Rochor Canal Road, the market has shrunk in size over the years to make way for developments.

In February, the Government announced that the site would be used for ground preparation works for future residential development use, and it was officially closed on Monday.