Columbarium in Sengkang Fernvale Link 'will be out of public view'

Mr Simon Hoo, chief executive of Life Corp, said the Fernvale Link development "will be 80 per cent temple and 20 per cent columbarium", and that the columbarium "will be inside the temple building".
Mr Simon Hoo, chief executive of Life Corp, said the Fernvale Link development "will be 80 per cent temple and 20 per cent columbarium", and that the columbarium "will be inside the temple building".PHOTO: LIFE CORPORATION LIMITED

MP assures would-be residents of project near temple

The planned columbarium in Fernvale Link, which has upset some residents, will be out of the public's view and will take up, at most, only a fifth of the Chinese temple it will be housed at.

This was the assurance Dr Lam Pin Min, the MP for Sengkang West, gave yesterday in a lengthy Facebook post in which he said he understood the concerns of residents.

A dialogue between residents and Life Corp, which is developing the temple, the Housing Board and Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) will be held on Sunday morning at the Anchorvale Community Centre, he revealed.

An online petition started on Tuesday to stop the development of the columbarium had garnered more than 600 signatures by yesterday evening.

The temple, which is set to be completed next year, will be located next to Fernvale Lea, a Build-to-Order (BTO) project which is expected to be ready for occupation later this year.

Dr Lam, who is also the Minister of State for Health, wrote yesterday that he had received plenty of feedback on the issue. He said he had met Life Corp, which is the parent company of Singapore Funeral Services, the URA and HDB.

"I have been reassured by the developer that there will not be crematorium or funeral parlour services at the new temple," he said.

Instead, the modern-looking temple will be the first in Singapore to have an automated columbarium; the niches will be kept hidden and there are private viewing booths.

There will be other features to reduce noise and parking issues.

Dr Lam wrote: "Visitation times will be done through e-booking to minimise crowds... Worship and services will be conducted indoor in air-conditioned halls to minimise noise. To protect the environment, there will not be open burning of incense and offerings at the temple.

"In addition, there will be provision of free parking spaces on the temple premises."

He also explained that having columbarium services at places of worship is not uncommon. Similar setups can be found at the Puat Jit Buddhist Temple in Anchorvale and the Church of St Francis Xavier in Serangoon Gardens, wrote Dr Lam.

He noted that the plot of land in Fernvale has been designated as a reserve site for a Chinese temple in the URA masterplan and that this is reflected in the brochure for the Fernvale Lea BTO development. It is also indicated in the brochure that the proposed facility may include a columbarium allowed under URA's guidelines.

Mr Simon Hoo, chief executive of Life Corp, told The Straits Times that the development "will be 80 per cent temple and 20 per cent columbarium".

"The columbarium will be out of sight and out of mind. It will be inside the temple building. It will also be a modern temple with a zen feel to it, and not the traditional dragon-and-phoenix type of temple."

According to URA guidelines, approved temples are allowed to set aside some space within their buildings for columbarium use, but this must not exceed 20 per cent of the total gross floor area of the building.

The HDB and URA said in a joint statement: "To protect the amenity of the adjoining developments, the columbarium area must also be located inside the main building, out of sight of the surrounding developments, preferably in the basement. If it is located above ground, it should be screened from public view."

The petition against the columbarium has also attracted more than 140 comments, with those responding describing their unease about living near the dead, or their worries about possible noise.

Others were annoyed that the possibility of a columbarium at the site of the temple was in fine print in the BTO development booklet.

Product manager Karthik Asok, 28, said that while Dr Lam's post helped clear up some of the confusion about the development, more information should have been given to residents. He applied for a flat at Fernvale Lea in 2012 and is due to move in later this year.

"The authorities should have been more transparent, more black and white, with what they were going to do with the site so the residents know what's happening," he said.

Systems engineering technician Asif Mustaza, 25, who is also moving in this year, said he did not mind that a columbarium is being planned.

"For me, it doesn't matter. What's the worst that can happen? But I can see where my neighbours are coming from. Most of them applying are young adults like me, who are worried about the resale value of their flat."

lesterh@sph.com.sg