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Black and whites at old Seletar airbase to get new lease of life

Published on Feb 11, 2014 6:59 AM

The black and white bungalows at the former Seletar airbase were built to house officers from Britain's Royal Air Force before the outbreak of World War II.

Now they could house offices, schools, restaurants, spas and sports facilities under plans being drawn up by the Government, The Straits Times has learnt.

All 32 bungalows, which have been vacant in recent years, and two former military buildings at The Oval and Park Lane will also be gazetted by the Urban Redevelopment Authority for conservation.

Despite the planned makeover, JTC Corporation is intending to maintain the colonial charm of the structures. "This will add vibrancy to the area and the ambience will also be preserved with the decision to zone it as a heritage site," said JTC's aerospace director Leow Thiam Seng.

The first three bungalows have been handed over to JTC for development - possibly into food and beverage outlets and even a childcare centre, under plans currently being discussed. They will open in the second half of next year.

JTC is the lead government agency behind the development of Seletar Aerospace Park, a 300ha plot of land which houses Seletar Airport and the colonial buildings.

Many of the bungalows were rented out as homes before plans for the aerospace park were unveiled in 2007. At the time, there were 378 bungalows in the area before two phases of development saw industry move in.

Seletar still houses around 130 other residential colonial bungalows, which are located outside the aerospace park zone.

Airline executive Edith Kraaijeveld, 45, who has been living in Seletar for close to two decades, hopes this will bring back some of the area's old charm, which was lost when the bulldozers moved in to build factories.

"There's something very special about this place and its close- knit community... Here, our children can jump on their bikes and explore. We started a play group about 11 years ago and still meet every Friday, taking turns to host up to 25 children, many of whom have grown up together."

But the Dutch national, who is a mother of two boys aged nine and 10, added: "The truth is that with all the construction the past few years, things will never be exactly the way they were."

Seletar also served as Singapore's first civil airport. There are now 45 global and local aerospace firms operating in the area. More are expected to set up shop as JTC moves into the third and final phase of the development.

"The reality is that the place has changed," said Mrs Kraaijeveld. "But I'm happy that the colonial bungalows and buildings will be conserved. It's important to retain the area's strong historical value.

"I am very passionate about Seletar's heritage, and I hope the authorities will consider using one of the bungalows as a museum to showcase the area's rich history."

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