Funds disbursed for upkeep of monuments to double

Facade of Masjid Abdul Gafoor, a recipient of the National Monument Fund, on June 8, 2017.
Facade of Masjid Abdul Gafoor, a recipient of the National Monument Fund, on June 8, 2017.ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM
Interior of Masjid Abdul Gafoor, a recipient of the National Monument Fund, on June 8, 2017.
Interior of Masjid Abdul Gafoor, a recipient of the National Monument Fund, on June 8, 2017.ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM
Four national monuments: (Clockwise) the Fullerton Building, Jurong Town Hall, Civilian War Memorial and Sri Thendayuthapani Temple.
Four national monuments: (Clockwise) the Fullerton Building, Jurong Town Hall, Civilian War Memorial and Sri Thendayuthapani Temple.PHOTOS: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - The National Monuments Fund will this year disburse double the amount of funds for the upkeep of monuments and it will now expand the scope of maintenance works covered by the fund.

Announcing this on Thursday (June 8), the National Heritage Board (NHB) said that the scope of the maintenance component of the fund was expanded to include maintenance works for lightning protection; removal of vegetation close to the monument to prevent damage and as a safety measure; and arborist reports to support the removal of vegetation.

Other works already covered in the maintenance component include termite inspections; investigation of building defects and cracks in walls and other structures to determine structural integrity; and spot repair of artefacts or features.

The fund has two categories: a maintenance component which covers works that prolong the lifespan of old buildings, and a restoration component which covers urgent structural repairs and works that preserve the historical and architectural features of the buildings.

A national monument is one that should have historic, cultural, traditional, archaeological, architectural, artistic or symbolic significance, and be of national importance.

The Preservation of Sites and Monuments (PSM), an NHB division that administers the fund, said the move to expand the scope of the maintenance component was done after getting feedback from monument owners.

This year, a total of $2.2 million from the fund will be given to 17 national monuments, of which about $200,000 will be used to co-fund maintenance works of 16 monuments. Last year, half the amount was disbursed to 20 monuments for maintenance works.

The larger amount awarded under the maintenance component this year "reflects the monument owners' growing awareness of the importance of conducting regular maintenance works to restrain building deterioration", said NHB.

It said in a statement: "Many of the applicants are going beyond basic maintenance such as termite control, and venturing into a wider range of investigative works to establish long-term maintenance plans for their buildings. These works help prevent the ballooning of restoration costs."

The doubling in the amount disbursed can also be attributed to the larger scope of the maintenance component, it said.

Ms Jean Wee, director of the PSM division at NHB, said: "We are happy to see the good take-up by monument owners to undertake an expanded scope of works as this reflects their increased commitment to and care towards preserving our built heritage in the long run."

NHB said that both categories of the fund are "complementary", as the maintenance component supports investigative efforts, which will help to identify and guide the subsequent restoration works required.

This year, six monuments will receive funds for maintenance and restoration, including the Chesed-El Synagogue in Oxley Rise and the Abdul Gafoor Mosque in Dunlop Street.

The synagogue will receive close to $400,000. It will use the money to conduct assessment studies of nearby overhanging vegetation that poses a risk to the monument. The synagogue will also carry out restoration works such as structural enhancements to its front canopies with ornate floral plasterwork and cornices.

Restoration and maintenance works done over the years have helped the synagogue retain its appearance after it was constructed in 1905. These include a restored roof supported by specially-crafted Corinthian columns, new tiled floors identical to the original marble flooring, and a fresh coat of paint for its facade and doors.

The mosque will receive close to $500,000 from the fund this year. Its maintenance works include structural investigation of its roof and pinnacles. These would guide its restoration works as it undergoes a facelift this year. The sundial at its pediment will be repainted, adorned with the names of Islamic prophets in Arabic calligraphy. Stained glass windows around its dome will also be restored.

The National Monuments Fund was introduced with a first tranche of $5 million in 2008, then a second tranche of $11.77 million in 2015. The maintenance category was added and allocated $2 million from the second tranche.

Last year, a total of $2.3 million from the fund was disbursed to 23 national monuments. The disbursement amount is individually assessed based on the severity and scope of work required.