Unhappiness over Sengkang temple with columbarium: 6 other cases of residents opposing developments near their homes

Artist's impression of the planned Chinese temple with columbarium next to BTO project Fernvale Lea. -- PHOTO: LIFE CORPORATION LIMITED
Artist's impression of the planned Chinese temple with columbarium next to BTO project Fernvale Lea. -- PHOTO: LIFE CORPORATION LIMITED

SINGAPORE - Future residents of Build-To-Order (BTO) project Fernvale Lea are up in arms over a planned Chinese temple with columbarium next to their flats. The columbarium, where funeral urns will be stored, will take up 15 per cent of the temple it will be housed at.

About 400 would-be residents of Fernvale Lea attended a closed-door dialogue with Dr Lam Pin Min, MP for Sengkang West, on Jan 4. There have even been requests to get refunds from the Housing Board.

There have been other cases of people not wanting certain types of amenities in their neighbourhood - or, as many know it, the not-in-my-backyard (Nimby) syndrome. Here are some past incidents:

1. October 2013 - International school in Pasir Ris

Issue: Building of international school near homes

A group of residents in Pasir Ris were against the idea of a 12-storey international school looming over their homes and causing traffic congestion. They also wanted to preserve the forested area that had to be cleared for the building.

Outcome: New roads off Pasir Ris Drive 3 and opposite Pasir Ris Drive 10 were created to ensure smooth traffic. Academic buildings were tilted at an angle to reduce the sense of "towering" over the homes, which are mostly terrace or semi-detached homes. The school amenities which generate higher level of noise - such as the school bus drop-off points, sports facilities and the school canteen - were built farthest from the neighbouring residences, nearer to Pasir Ris Drive 3.

2. February 2013 - Nursing home in Yew Tee

Issue: Some Yew Tee residents were against plans to build a nursing home in their neighbourhood. They raised concerns like noise pollution during construction, traffic congestion in the single-lane roads that serve the area, and the nursing home blocking their view. 

Outcome: The nursing home was built to be seven storeys, instead of eight, and the single lane in Choa Chu Kang North 6, towards Choa Chu Kang North 5, was expanded into a dual lane.

3. May 2012 - Nursing home in Bishan East

Issue: Residents said their view would be blocked by the nursing home, and that air flow would be restricted by the building. 

Outcome: The building was capped at six instead of eight storeys.

4. May 2012 - Tall condominiums in Upper Bukit Timah

Issue: Dairy Farm, Chestnut and Cashew estate residents were concerned about taller condominiums being built in the area blocking their green view of a secondary forest, and towering over their low-rise homes. They were also worried that the development may harm the plant and animal life, and increase surface runoff into a canal, which already fills when it rains. They were also upset that a planned road in the area would cut into a canal-side jogging trail popular with residents.

Outcome: The housing blocks on the site were limited to 15 storeys, and a proposed commercial property next to the site was relocated elsewhere. The construction of the road was held off.

5. March 2012 - Studio apartments for elderly in Toh Yi

Issue: Residents in Toh Yi were unhappy with the idea of studio apartments for the elderly being built in their estate. Plans were for the apartments to be built where the area's main recreational facilities - a basketball court, jogging track and community garden - were. Residents were concerned that these facilities would be taken away from them. Some also questioned if the site was suitable for building apartments for the elderly because of the slopes.

Outcome: HDB decided to build a children's playground and community garden on the second floor of the studio apartment building that would be open to everyone. A jogging path was also planned. Fifty carpark spaces were added to relieve the parking shortage in nearby blocks, and footpaths were added to link the studio units seamlessly to the surrounding neighbourhood.

6. October 2008 - Workers' dormitory in Serangoon Gardens

Issue: Serangoon Gardens residents were up in arms over plans to build a workers' dormitory in their estate. They cited noise and pollution from buses ferrying workers, a possible increase in crime, traffic congestion, and lower market value for their properties in the upper-middle class neighbourhood as reasons for their unhappiness.

Outcome: No more than 600 foreigners - generally factory workers in the IT and electronics industries in Ang Mo Kio - were housed at the dormitory, although a feasibility study showed that the space could accommodate 1,000 people. An access road to the building was built, so that buses transporting workers to and from the dormitory need not wind through the estate, and would not worsen traffic congestion problems. The facility came with amenities, designed to ensure that workers would spend most of their time in the dormitory. The area for the site also ended up smaller than planned, making it farther from homes.

jalmsab@sph.com.sg