Bukit Batok and ComfortDelgro driving schools may be driven out

The Bukit Batok Driving Centre, which spans 30,000 sq m and has been at its current site since 1988, has three years left on its lease. Last year, over 14,000 students enrolled with the centre for automatic car lessons.
The Bukit Batok Driving Centre, which spans 30,000 sq m and has been at its current site since 1988, has three years left on its lease. Last year, over 14,000 students enrolled with the centre for automatic car lessons.PHOTO: DIOS VINCOY JR FOR THE SUNDAY TIMES
The Bukit Batok Driving Centre, which spans 30,000 sq m and has been at its current site since 1988, has three years left on its lease. Last year, over 14,000 students enrolled with the centre for automatic car lessons.
MR ANG KOH KWEE, senior manager of the Bukit Batok Driving CentrePHOTO: DIOS VINCOY JR FOR THE SUNDAY TIMES

URA studying possible replacement sites for schools in Ubi, Bukit Batok as leases near end

Two of Singapore's three driving centres are reaching the end of the road at their current locations.

The lease at ComfortDelGro Driving Centre in Ubi is due to expire next year and the 28,000 sq m site has been earmarked for light industry use in the latest Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) masterplan.

Bukit Batok Driving Centre (BBDC) has three years left on its lease and the URA has stated that it will have to make way for housing within the next 15 to 20 years.

However, the URA told The Sunday Times that it is currently "studying possible replacement sites" for both driving centres and will work with their operators to ensure that the services remain available. It added that it will consider "extending the leases of the current sites until... the replacement sites are ready."

Singapore's third driving centre - the Singapore Safety Driving Centre in Woodlands - is zoned under "transport facilities", which means it is allowed to host a driving circuit or driving test centre.

SEEKING ROOM TO GROW

We hope that the authorities will allocate us a bigger land site so we can have more space for our driving circuit.

MR ANG KOH KWEE, senior manager of the Bukit Batok Driving Centre

Of the more than 38,000 motorists who passed their 3 and 3A tests in the year up to May this year, over 16,000 did so at the two centres.

BBDC spans about 30,000 sq m and has occupied its current Bukit Batok site since 1988. Last year, more than 14,000 students enrolled with the centre for automatic car lessons while almost 5,000 signed up for motorcycle lessons.

Meanwhile, The Sunday Times understands that the lease for ComfortDelGro Driving Centre expired last year but was extended until next June. It has occupied the site since 1997.

A spokesman for the Singapore Land Authority added last Thursday that no request has been received from the driving centre to extend its tenancy.

Property experts said possible locations for new driving centres include Punggol, Woodlands and Sembawang. While Woodlands and Sembawang areas are "more far flung", they are still sufficiently built up and will be able to offer students practical lessons, according to R'ST Research director Ong Kah Seng.

He added that he would not be surprised if over the past 15 to 20 years, the land price for BBDC has almost doubled and gone up more than 75 per cent for the driving centre in Ubi. Senior manager of BBDC Ang Koh Kwee said: "We hope that the authorities will allocate us a bigger land site so we can have more space for our driving circuit."

Communications manager Joanne Lim, 24, who is taking driving lessons at ComfortDelGro Driving Centre, hopes the site will remain in Ubi until her course ends.

"The other centres are quite far away from where I live and work and rather inconvenient to get to," said Ms Lim.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on July 19, 2015, with the headline '2 driving centres may be driven out'. Print Edition | Subscribe