Pasir Ris international school design tweaked after residents' objections

Brandon Foo, seven, looking from a deck at the back of his home at what used to be forested area, until it was cleared last month.
Brandon Foo, seven, looking from a deck at the back of his home at what used to be forested area, until it was cleared last month.ST PHOTO: RAJ NADARAJAN

But some still concerned about traffic woes at Pasir Ris international school

A group of residents in Pasir Ris have lost a long-running battle to stop the Government from giving approval for a new international school close to their homes.

The Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) informed the residents recently that the Overseas Family School (OFS) will proceed, but with a design addressing some concerns they had raised.

Some residents were concerned that the school's 12-storey buildings would loom over their homes, while others were keen to preserve a forested area.

Some were also worried that transport for its 4,800 pupils would affect traffic flow.

The $261 million campus on the 4ha plot is at the corner of Pasir Ris Drive 3 and Elias Road.

Until last month, when it was cleared, the plot boasted woodland that some residents had fought to save. They aired their concerns with the authorities.

Last weekend, about 300 residents of the Pasir Ris Heights area got a URA letter showing the campus layout and detailing measures to assuage some concerns.

These include a new road off Pasir Ris Drive 3 and opposite Pasir Ris Drive 10, providing more planting at the site's edges than the standard 2m requirement, and putting the car and bus parks beneath the school field.

"We have approved the layout of the school campus based on the following major considerations to mitigate your concerns," it said.

Another design feature is that the air-conditioned 12-storey academic buildings are to tilted at an angle to reduce the sense they will tower over homes, mostly terrace or semi-detached homes.

Still, some residents are concerned about traffic congestion and parents of OFS pupils parking their cars in front of their homes.

The Pasir Ris Greenbelt residents' group is still hoping for a townhall-style meeting with the school, URA and the Ministry of National Development to reiterate concerns before piling starts and the layout of the campus is set.

But OFS has a deadline as it must move out of its Paterson Road campus by 2015 to make way for the Thomson MRT Line.

Asked if his views might be considered "not in my backyard" or Nimby entitlement, Pasir Ris Heights resident Oliver Foo, 49, said: "Would we prefer to have a green belt? Yes."

"But do we accept that the school is coming? Yes, we do," said the leadership consultant.

National University of Singapore geographer Harvey Neo, who studies nature and society, said while the authorities have factored in some of the residents' concerns, "fundamentally, the residents are questioning the need and inevitability of building an overseas school in the green belt".

But some have pointed out that some give-and-take is necessary.

There have been incidents of residents opposing developments, like nursing homes, being built near their homes.

MP Lim Biow Chuan, who has dealt with such cases, said: "I always hesitate to use the term Nimby. Although strictly speaking the land does not belong to the residents... we should see if these are legitimate concerns.

"Planning for land use is a complicated affair, and like it or not, some things have to be built. Sometimes residents are concerned because they can't see the whole picture. So communication is important."