The National Environment Agency (NEA) should consider several issues when designing and upgrading hawker centres ("Good ol' Ghim Moh back in business"; last Thursday)
First, the size of the stall. There is no choice of spaces, such as small, medium or large, available to stallholders.
Surely, the hawker selling coffee and the one selling zi char cannot be expected to operate from a shop of the same size.
The lack of space leads to them leaving their goods on the table directly in front of their stall or using it as a food preparation area. Besides reducing the seating capacity of the hawker centre and being unsightly, it is also not right that the stallholders have a "free extension" of space.
Second, ventilation. Simply having more fans will not work. Hot air from the cooking stoves is just being blown and spread around. Proper ventilation fans, which draw out hot air and pull in cool air from the outside, will lead to a better eating environment.
Right now, all we get is a higher ceiling to cope with the airflow but the hawker centres remain hot and stuffy.
Third, the space between tables needs to be increased. With queues of people, and cleaners with their trolleys, manoeuvring your way in a hawker centre requires some skill to avoid accidents. An example of a very cramped area is the upgraded Bukit Timah hawker centre, where one can hardly walk between tables.
Fourth, the return-tray area. It seems the NEA is not serious about this. There are usually insufficient shelves and it seems there is no one to clear the returned trays once the shelves are filled. The station must be manned by someone during peak hours.
Hawker centres are a part of our lifestyle and here to stay. Perhaps a comprehensive study should be done, taking customer feedback into account, before an upgrading exercise is carried out.