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5,000 flats to be built on Old Police Academy site in Mount Pleasant; parts of area’s heritage to be preserved

SINGAPORE — A new 33ha housing estate comprising 5,000 flats will be built at Mount Pleasant. It is an area with rich heritage, being home to the Old Police Academy and pre-war black-and-white bungalows.

5,000 flats to be built on Old Police Academy site in Mount Pleasant; parts of area’s heritage to be preserved

An aerial view of the site of a planned housing estate in the Mount Pleasant area.

  • Plans are afoot to launch the first Build-To-Order housing project in the Mount Pleasant area in the next five years
  • Parts of the area’s heritage, including several blocks of the Old Police Academy, will be retained
  • HDB said there was strong demand for flats in nearby areas
  • National Development Minister Desmond Lee said the authorities engaged heritage groups and the police fraternity extensively to get their views on preserving the area’s heritage
  • Studies were done to guide HDB’s development plans to mitigate the potential impact on both the natural and built environments

 

SINGAPORE — A new 33ha housing estate comprising 5,000 flats will be built at Mount Pleasant. It is an area with rich heritage, being home to the Old Police Academy and pre-war black-and-white bungalows.

Considering their assessed heritage significance, the authorities said on Tuesday (Nov 23) that four buildings of the academy — Blocks 1, 2, 27 and 28 — would be retained. A part of the parade square will also be kept as an open space within the new estate.

In a joint press statement, the Housing and Development Board (HDB), Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) and Singapore Land Authority (SLA) announced that the plan was to launch the first Build-To-Order (BTO) housing project in the estate in the next five years.

The new estate, bounded by Thomson Road and the Pan Island Expressway (PIE), is close to Bukit Brown, the Central Catchment Nature Reserve and towns such as Toa Payoh.

To pave the way for the development of public housing and a road network in the area, the Government would acquire a small part of the land at the Singapore Polo Club along Mount Pleasant Road. Its clubhouse, field and main horse stables would not be affected, the government agencies said.

In response to TODAY’s queries, HDB said that the club would be given enough time to prepare for any adjustments to its operations that might arise from the acquisition and it would work with the club to minimise any disruptions to its services.

When contacted, Ms Marlene Teo, marketing communications and lifestyle manager at the Singapore Polo Club, said that the club was unable to comment on the matter at this point until it further understands the impact of the development plans in Mount Pleasant.

In the meantime, HDB said that there was strong demand for flats in nearby mature estates, as borne out by high application rates in BTO sale exercises in Toa Payoh, as well as the Bishan and Kallang-Whampoa towns.

Demand for flats in these towns and mature estates is also strong in HDB's Sale of Balance Flats exercises.

At a media briefing on Tuesday, National Development Minister Desmond Lee spoke of the importance of commemorating the area’s history as well as shared memories and experiences.

“​​So we first engaged the stakeholders extensively — representatives from our heritage groups and members of the larger police fraternity, including serving officers, retired officers and national servicemen — to get their views on how we can best document, preserve and incorporate this rich heritage of the site within our design.”

The Old Police Academy played a vital role in the development of the Straits Settlements police force, making it the first time that Singapore had a permanent institution to train and professionalise its law enforcement body.

From the 1920s to 2005, the landmark institution was central to the professional development of police officers. It relocated to the Home Team Academy in Chua Chu Kang in 2005.

The government agencies said that given the scale and context of the site, detailed heritage and environmental impact studies were done to assess the heritage and ecological value of the area. These studies are to guide HDB’s development plans to mitigate the potential impact on both the natural and built environments.

They also consulted various stakeholders such as heritage and nature groups, as well as the police community, on the proposed development plans.

HISTORICAL SIGNIFICANCE

The extensive heritage study, done between August 2018 and September 2019, provided an independent and detailed evaluation of the historical significance of the site, the potential impact of development and the proposed mitigating measures, the three agencies said.

For buildings or spaces that cannot be retained in their entirety owing to development needs or technical constraints, HDB will explore various strategies to retain and commemorate these spaces' heritage.

These will include exploring the possibility of retaining physical elements of the key sites of the academy and incorporating them into the new housing estate as street furniture or markers.                  

URA has also identified two other buildings of the Old Police Academy that are outside the new housing estate and will be retained. Block 153 will be kept as a senior police officers’ mess, while the future use of Block 13 will be studied further.

A new workgroup has also been set up to focus on how the rich heritage of the academy can be preserved and incorporated into future residential parcels or the design of common and park spaces, or both, before development work begins.

It will also discuss ways to enhance the distinctiveness and identity of the estate such as through proposals for new road names related to police heritage.

HDB and the police will lead the workgroup, which will involve URA, the National Heritage Board, members of the police fraternity and heritage consultants.

Associate Professor Muhammad Faishal Ibrahim, Minister of State for Home Affairs and National Development, will chair the group.

MINIMISING ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT                                                                                    

Based on the environmental impact study commissioned by HDB in 2019, it found that the area was composed predominantly of abandoned-land forest and managed vegetation, including landscape and streetscape plantings, green verges and managed lawns. 

The area studied covered the site of the planned housing development and its wider surroundings, spanning 71.6ha. The study found that the area also provides a variety of habitats for fauna, with three streams and two stormwater drains.

To further minimise the potential impact on the environment, HDB also engaged nature groups.

The authorities adjusted the proposed road network, meant to support the travel needs of future residents, so that the surrounding greenery in Bukit Brown and the adjacent Kopi Sua Cemetery would not be affected.

Two out of the three streams in the area would be conserved fully. As for the third stream, about a third of its upstream portion, where there is richer biodiversity, would be conserved.

HDB would carry out other mitigating measures to minimise the potential impact on flora and fauna in the surrounding areas.

These will include planting more trees along the edge of Bukit Brown to serve as a natural barrier to light and noise, and filter vehicular emissions that may be harmful to animals.

Clearance activities will also be done progressively to avoid the bird breeding season.

Tree protection zones to protect large trees would be set up as well.

An environmental monitoring and management plan will be in place to ensure the effectiveness of the mitigating measures, and to closely monitor and manage any potential environmental impact arising from the infrastructure and building work.

Ms Christine Sun, senior vice-president for research and analytics at property firm OrangeTee & Tie, noted the new housing estate’s convenient location in the centre of Singapore. 

Future residents may, for instance, access major expressways via the PIE or travel to the northern and eastern regions of the island on the Thomson-East Coast MRT Line. 

HDB, URA and SLA said that the Mount Pleasant MRT Station along the line would open in tandem with the completion of public housing developments in the area.

Ms Sun said it is not often that new BTO projects are built near or next to a train stop, so flats in the area may be “quite well-received by buyers”. 

Despite its good location, some drawbacks include noise from the expressway and the estate’s proximity to the cemetery, she added. 

Related topics

mount pleasant HDB URA Heritage preservation BTO housing

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