Leases for Mt Vernon halls extended

The Mount Vernon Columbarium is to be torn down to make way for the new Bidadari housing estate. The authorities have said that a new funeral parlour will be built as part of the development of the site. The new complex will be well integrated into t
The Mount Vernon Columbarium is to be torn down to make way for the new Bidadari housing estate. The authorities have said that a new funeral parlour will be built as part of the development of the site. The new complex will be well integrated into the surroundings, they added, and will also "serve as an extension of the park greenery".ST PHOTO: NIVASH JOYVIN

Parlours to remain for at least another year till demolition of complex: NEA

The funeral parlours at Mount Vernon Columbarium will remain for at least another year, before they are demolished to make way for a new housing estate.

The authorities have extended the leases for the parlours at the complex in Upper Aljunied Road for a second time, Today newspaper reported yesterday.

The leases for Mount Vernon Parlours 1 and 2, which are run by Singapore Casket, were supposed to expire this month, but have been extended to next December.

Mount Vernon Sanctuary has six halls, whose leases, due to end next March, have been extended to March 2018.

The National Environment Agency (NEA) told The Straits Times that it plans to continue the leases for the funeral parlours until they are required to be cleared together with the columbarium blocks. It did not say when this might happen.

Next-of-kin have to claim existing niches at Mount Vernon by June 30 next year. These niches will be relocated to the Mandai Columbarium.

There have been concerns that the demolition of the complex would result in a serious shortage of facilities where wakes can be held.

Mount Vernon Sanctuary is among the largest operators here, as its six halls can accommodate up to 600 people.

Singapore Casket also has 10 halls in its Lavender Street building, besides its two parlours at Mount Vernon.

Both private operators have seen an increase in demand for their halls.

In 2013, the authorities announced that the complex would be cleared to make way for the Bidadari housing estate.

The leases of the parlours had been extended once before, in 2014. It appears unlikely that the leases will be extended a third time.

Since November last year, there have been three batches of Bidadari flats launched for sale. The Housing Board said earlier that the flats will be progressively completed from the third quarter of 2019.

Part of the site has been set aside for a "new and modern" Mount Vernon Funeral Parlour, the authorities said.

They added that this new complex will be well integrated into the surroundings to "minimise the visual impact on nearby residential buildings" and will also "serve as an extension of the park greenery".

Next-of-kin have to claim existing niches at Mount Vernon by June 30 next year. These niches will be relocated to the Mandai Columbarium.

More than 12,000 of the 20,000 niches have been claimed as at the end of last month, said NEA.

Mount Vernon Sanctuary's chief executive Deborah Andres said that the firm was "pleased to be able to continue serving the community", but added that its long-term future was uncertain.

She hopes to operate in the new funeral parlour at Bidadari, but has yet to finalise any plans.

"We'd love it if the Government could give us an opportunity to rebuild on a plot of land," said Ms Andres. She added that the firm has been in discussion with the authorities about possible locations.

"But the only locations we were told about were in Choa Chu Kang or Mandai, which are not as conveniently located (as the current one)," she said.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 14, 2016, with the headline 'Leases for Mt Vernon halls extended'. Print Edition | Subscribe