Neighbourhoods where families can stroll and cycle through verdant parks or enjoy access to waterfronts. Estates where senior citizens can age actively in place, with integrated recreation and healthcare facilities. Green buildings equipped with solar panels and urban farms to reduce carbon footprint and support food security. This could be Singapore's landscape in the coming decades if the Urban Redevelopment Authority's (URA) plans come to fruition. In the past week, a flurry of ideas has been released as part of the URA's review of Singapore's long-term land use plans. Public and private housing will sprout at Springleaf, Changi and Marina South. Commercial and office sites will be offered shorter leases, given the flexi-work trend that has taken root in a post-pandemic world. Mixed-use developments hosting clean industrial activities, co-working spaces and F&B outlets will help maximise usage of industrial estates. A sensitive approach that repurposes existing structures such as the Paya Lebar Air Base buildings will help preserve built heritage even as valuable space is freed for alternative use.
The respect for both built and natural heritages, reflected in the initiatives for identity and nature corridors, will help instil in Singaporeans a sense of belonging and identity, addressing an oft-heard complaint that this island state's landscape changes much too frequently. What is often seen as a handicap - the country's small size and its rapid urbanisation - can, in fact, also become a strength as Singapore strives to balance urban planning with urgent issues of conservation, climate change and population demand. Just as the Dutch are pioneering new ways of living amid climate change, Singapore can become a test-bed for innovative urban planning and help pave new ways of living that meet the aspirations of current and future generations.