SINGAPORE - All properties with architectural or heritage merit - including 38, Oxley Road - should be subject to due process, said Minister for National Development Lawrence Wong.
This means carrying out a "rigorous assessment process" for all such properties before deciding whether to conserve or preserve them, he said in a speech in Parliament on Monday (July 3).
He added that the various agencies had been working on the issue at a lower level, even before the formation of a ministerial committee last year to look at options for the house of former prime minister Lee Kuan Yew.
For example, the National Heritage Board had been documenting the historical significance of the house, while the Urban Redevelopment Authority looked at the planning and zoning implications under various scenarios.
Mr Wong, who was previously minister for Community, Culture and Youth, explained to the House in a 25-minute speech how the Government decides whether a property should be gazetted as national monument, or conserved.
He was the third minister to speak about the Oxley Road dispute, which exploded onto the public domain on June 14 when Mr Lee Hsien Yang and Dr Lee Wei Ling posted on social media a six-page statement accusing their older brother, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, of abusing his power to thwart their father's wishes to have his house demolished.
Mr Wong said the NHB would review a site's role in Singapore's history, while the URA would study the architecturally significant aspects of a property.
Agencies would then look into the planning considerations for the property and its surroundings, including any technical regulatory requirements that may have an impact on the form of preservation or conservation for the property.
They would then review allowable uses of the site. For example, he said, URA may look at whether a conserved residential building can be adapted for commercial, civic or community use.
These would be subject to various technical and infrastructural constraints, like whether the surroundings can support a higher traffic volume brought about by the change.
After this, agencies need to consider whether the Government should acquire the property for conservation or preservation.
In doing so, the agencies must also consider whether the planning intent for the conserved or preserved site is "best served by having the Government owning the site, as opposed to leaving it under private ownership."
He said the research process "provides important baseline information for all properties deemed to have heritage and architectural value."
If there is a need to decide on the next step for the property, government agencies will then proceed to seek views from relevant stakeholders, including the property owner and relevant professionals, he said.
Should the Government decide to pursue conservation or preservation, the property owner would be given a chance to respond.
"Based on past cases, the vast majority of owners would agree with the conservation or preservation proposals. Few have appealed," he said. "But the final decision for conservation or preservation lies with the Government."
He said: "The ministerial committee has no pre-conceived notion on what to do with the House. But the current Government has a duty to do the work now, list out all the options, and prepare ahead for the implications of each of them.
"That is the right and responsible thing to do."