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Use vacant plots, Sers for housing needs instead of clearing Dover Forest: MP Christopher de Souza

SINGAPORE — Calling on the Government to preserve Dover Forest, Member of Parliament (MP) Christopher de Souza proposed a few alternatives in the Ghim Moh and Ulu Pandan areas for housing needs, including the site of the old Raffles Junior College.

Use vacant plots, Sers for housing needs instead of clearing Dover Forest: MP Christopher de Souza

One of two vacant plots of land near the Ulu Pandan Community Club. Member of Parliament Christopher de Souza suggested that the land could be used for public housing needs.

  • The 33ha Dover Forest was re-zoned in 2003 for residential development
  • MP Christopher de Souza proposed using under-utilised land and the Selective En bloc Redevelopment Scheme for housing needs instead
  • Keeping Dover Forest would preserve a “loop of nature” around the constituency, he said

 

SINGAPORE — Calling on the Government to preserve Dover Forest, Member of Parliament (MP) Christopher de Souza proposed a few alternatives in the Ghim Moh and Ulu Pandan areas for housing needs, including the site of the old Raffles Junior College.

The MP for Holland-Bukit Timah Group Representation Constituency (GRC) said that vacant plots, under-utilised land and the Selective En bloc Redevelopment Scheme (Sers) could be considered rather than clearing the forest.

In an adjournment motion in Parliament on Monday (Feb 1) evening, Mr de Souza urged the Government to consider his proposals instead of demolishing the 33ha Dover Forest, which the authorities had rezoned in 2003 for residential development.

“What I am trying to get across today to the planners is the need to think long and hard before making irreversible decisions.”

There have been recent public calls and petitions to conserve or preserve the 40-year-old forest and the nearby Clementi Forest — both of which are located in Mr de Souza’s constituency.

Travel restrictions due to the Covid-19 pandemic appeared to have raised Singaporeans’ interest in the nature around their own backyards.

Dover Forest is a secondary forest that regrew on old plantation land.

Mr de Souza’s motion was moved at the end of a lengthy parliamentary session, where National Development Minister Desmond Lee addressed the issue and announced that public consultation on the Dover Forest site uses will be extended by four weeks.

‘DELIBERATE AND PHASED’ SERS DEVELOPMENT

Mr de Souza’s plan includes using two vacant plots of land next to the Ulu Pandan Community Club (CC), redeveloping the old Raffles Junior College campus and using a large field next to the defunct Ghim Moh Primary School.

Infographic: Samuel Woo/TODAY

The two land parcels next to the CC, with gross plot ratios of 4.6 and 4.9, can be used as land for Built-to-Order (BTO) flats and to rehouse residents living in some of the older blocks in Ghim Moh, which could be demolished under Sers. 

This means that barring any security considerations or other requirements, flats can be built on the two plots of land at high densities and with heights of more than 36 storeys, according to the Urban Redevelopment Authority’s guidelines.

The two vacant plots used to be the sites for Blocks 9 to 12A. They were demolished after residents living there were moved through Sers to Ghim Moh Link.

Mr de Souza suggested a selective en bloc of Blocks 1 to 6, built in 1976 along Ghim Moh Road, and rehousing the residents at the two plots next to the CC.

Moving residents from these six blocks to the vacant plots would then release another “jigsaw piece” for residents living in some nine other blocks near Ghim Moh market to be rehoused, possibly through Sers.

“The vision is to continue to keep the market as the heart of Ghim Moh, while at the same time rejuvenating the whole of Ghim Moh town through a deliberate and phased Sers development and the use of high gross plot ratios,” he said.

That way, the area would be able to accommodate new residents in BTO flats as well as provide new flats with new leases for existing Ghim Moh residents, he added.

However, if the two plots of land are insufficient for the new developments, Mr de Souza pointed to a large unused field at the old Ghim Moh Primary School that can be used for housing.

And as a third alternative, he suggested the old Raffles Junior College campus, which is now unused. 

“According to the master plan, the campus is subject to detailed planning. I am offering a proposal for that ‘detailed planning’ today,” Mr de Souza said.

Preserving Dover Forest would retain a “loop of nature” around the constituency, since the forest links to the Clementi Forest and the Rail Corridor.

“A 40-year-old forest is home to creatures over many life cycles. Many life cycles of creatures and species create an ecosystem. That ecosystem has been adopted and made to become part of the wider shared landscape of Ulu Pandan residents.”

A view of Dover Forest from Ghim Moh Link. Photo: Ili Nadhirah Mansor/TODAY

Mr de Souza said that his suggestions were not made in a flippant manner and that he had spent a fair amount of time considering the influx of BTO flats in the estate and rejuvenation of the older flats.

“So if more BTO flats need to be built, we have a solution in my constituency. I am not taking the easy way out by saying ‘go build in someone else’s constituency’.”

In response, Mr Tan Kiat How, Minister of State for National Development, said that some of the suggestions by Mr de Souza had already been brought up by residents when the authorities were collecting feedback on the redevelopment of Dover Forest.

“We optimise our limited land supply by co-locating users, increasing the density of land plots, redeveloping existing sites and, where it makes sense, going underground,” he said.

Mr Tan reiterated that the Government will extend public consultation over the possible uses of Dover Forest for another four weeks and the Government will announce its plans when ready.

“Where we have to develop green field sites, we do so after careful deliberation, seeking to preserve and integrate natural elements into the developments.” 

Given the limited land in Singapore, the authorities have to plan judiciously and balance the needs of its population today with future generations, Mr Tan said.

“And that is why I am very heartened that despite the differing viewpoints we received on the Ulu Pandan site, there was a common thread running through the feedback — there was a strong desire to be responsible stewards for future generations.”

Related topics

Dover Forest CHRISTOPHER DE SOUZA housing Ghim Moh Ulu Pandan

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