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Clementi Forest to remain zoned for housing, but no ‘immediate need’ to develop site: Desmond Lee

SINGAPORE — The Clementi Forest, which became a recent talking point after a drone footage of it went viral, will remain classified for residential use, National Development Minister Desmond Lee said.

Clementi Forest to remain zoned for housing, but no ‘immediate need’ to develop site: Desmond Lee

Early morning mist captured at Clementi Forest by Facebook user Brice Li, who shared the photograph online in October 2020.

  • The Clementi Forest site has been designated for housing development since 1998
  • National Development Minister Desmond Lee said there is no immediate need to develop the area for housing but its zoning for this purpose will remain
  • Previously, the authorities had retained green spaces such as Thomson Nature Park and Windsor Nature Park instead of using them for housing needs


SINGAPORE — The Clementi Forest, which became a recent talking point after a drone footage of it went viral, will remain classified for residential use, National Development Minister Desmond Lee said.

Images of the green space caught the attention of online users in October last year and a petition was started to get the authorities to conserve the area, which has been earmarked for residential development.

In a written parliamentary response on Monday (Jan 4) to Mr Dennis Tan, Workers’ Party Member of Parliament, Mr Lee said: “The site commonly referred to as ‘Clementi Forest’ has been zoned ‘Residential (Subject to Detailed Planning)’ 23 years ago, since the Master Plan 1998, and safeguarded for residential use.

“There is no immediate need to develop the site for housing. We will, however, retain the zoning of the site, while giving our future generations the option of deciding whether to use it for housing, if the need arises.”

Mr Tan had asked if there will be a review of the site’s status in his question.

The site is a secondary forest that started out as an abandoned rubber plantation. People who signed the petition wanted to conserve it as a nature park, in support of an idea mooted by the Nature Society Singapore (NSS). 

NSS had previously highlighted its status as the country’s second largest patch of wildlife habitat and called it “the most important and largest patch of forest" that is contiguous to Rail Corridor, which stretches from Kranji to Tanjong Pagar.

The online petition, titled Protect Clementi Forest from Urbanisation, has received more than 12,000 signatures so far since its launch on Oct 26.

In response to media queries, the Urban Redevelopment Authority had said in late November that there are no immediate plans to develop the site even though it is meant to be developed for housing needs — a point repeated by Mr Lee on Monday.

“In land-scarce and densely populated Singapore, we will continue to have to balance the needs of development and conservation,” Mr Lee said in his reply.

“As part of our long-term planning process, we set aside land early to meet the aspirations of future generations. 

“In doing so, we endeavour to balance the demands and trade-offs across a variety of land use needs, including that of housing, green spaces, infrastructure and workplaces.”

Mr Lee also said that the authorities had reviewed its plans to retain green spaces “where possible”, leading to the safeguarding of about 7,800ha of land for nature reserves, nature areas, nature parks and other green spaces such as parks and park connectors.

These included keeping the Mandai Mangroves and Mudflats as a nature park due to its ecological value, although they were initially planned for factory use.

Similarly, Thomson Nature Park and Windsor Nature Park — both in the Upper Thomson Road area — were retained as green buffers to existing nature reserves when they could have been used for housing.

Not all of the nature reserves and parks were untouched habitats, Mr Lee added.

For example, Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve and the upcoming Khatib Bongsu Nature Park were once prawn farming areas. These areas, like Clementi Forest, were abandoned, acquired by the Government, and have over time become green spaces inhabited by indigenous flora and fauna.

“After weighing the alternatives and trade-offs, there will be areas that we cannot avoid developing,” Mr Lee said.

“Nonetheless, for these sites, possible environmental impacts will still be carefully managed, and natural elements will be integrated within developments where possible.”

The Government will continue to regularly review its plans in partnership with the public, to ensure that it supports the changing needs and aspirations of Singaporeans, he added.

For now, Mr Lee expects demand for Housing and Development Board (HDB) flats to remain strong as more singles aspire to have a home of their own and more families become nuclear households.

He acknowledged that there may be changes to how future office and industrial spaces are planned as the economy transforms and work patterns shift.

Road space may also be freed up for other purposes in the future as Singapore moves towards a more car-lite city, he said.

Besides Mr Tan, Dr Tan Wu Meng, who oversees the Clementi ward at Jurong Group Representation Constituency, had also filed a parliamentary question on the status of the Clementi Forest.

Referring to Singapore's “limited and dwindling green space”, he asked if the area can be designated as a national park or nature reserve, and whether environmental impact studies or assessments had been conducted there.

Dr Tan told TODAY that the question has been reserved for Tuesday’s parliamentary sitting because he wishes to ask a supplementary question.

Related topics

Clementi forest conservation Desmond Lee housing nature park

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