Why It Matters

HYFA field usage: Searching for sound solution

Early this month, the Singapore Land Authority slapped an injunction on the Home United Youth Football Academy (HYFA) in Mattar Road, limiting usage of two of its 12 fields - no activities after 7pm on weekdays and a total shutdown on weekends.

Negotiations are still ongoing, but how the parties resolve this is crucial. That this saga has polarised some people shows there is no quick fix.

Some felt it was unfair for residents to have to put up with the constant noise. Others asked if the issue was really serious, considering only five families petitioned for the authorities to step in. MP Tin Pei Ling, whose MacPherson ward covers the HYFA, later clarified the noise affects 35 households.

Before jumping to conclusions, first consider the facts. One, that the 2.5ha facility was built after consultation with the Urban Redevelopment Authority, which had deemed it for sporting use.

Two, that pitch activities typically cease by 9pm, much earlier than restrictions imposed on, say, getai operators (10.30pm), though these Seventh Month Festival concerts are admittedly seasonal events.

Finally, that pitch operators had exercised measures to lower the noise level by using quieter whistles and shifting supporters' tents farther away.

As members of the sporting fraternity point out, such an approach on a facility operator does nothing to help promote sport here.

Of course, that is not to say residents' complaints are invalid. But it is pertinent to ask: How different is their plight compared with families who live near MRT tracks? What about those near schools who put up with congested roadsand noise during physical education classes, band practice and other activities?

The authorities face a tough task juggling competing interests. Perhaps more can be done so that the conclusion is a win-win, and not a win-lose for residents and the academy alike. Would more dialogue - and a give-and-take attitude - help?

Urban spaces are only going to get denser. As land use is increasingly shared by different groups, similar conflicts could crop up. Any resolution here would set the tone moving forward.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 27, 2017, with the headline 'Searching for sound solution'. Print Edition | Subscribe