SINGAPORE - The plan for Dover Forest has been revised, with public housing expected to be launched in the eastern half next year while the western half is set aside for now to preserve its biodiversity.
The young secondary forest plot in western Singapore is zoned for residential use, but the plans were tweaked after scientific studies and nature enthusiasts flagged its conservation value.
To balance the country's needs for both housing and nature, only the eastern half of the 33ha site - almost eight times the size of the Padang - will be developed in the nearer term.
The plan is to develop about 11ha of land in the eastern half for public housing projects. The first of the flats there are expected to be launched in the second half of next year, said the Housing Board on Friday (July 30).
The development of the area, which is located in the mature estate of Queenstown, will be done sensitively and also feature 5ha of greenery - including a park with a natural stream.
The western half of the site will be set aside for now and relooked at in about a decade, HDB added. But parts of this segment, which is richer in biodiversity than the eastern half, will be carved out and safeguarded as a nature park.
Minister for National Development Desmond Lee said on Wednesday during a media conference: "HDB had originally intended to launch the entire parcel, known (also) as Ulu Pandan vegetated area or Ulu Pandan Forest, for public housing to meet pressing needs for public housing in the near term. But we have decided to review it and refine it."
This decision was made after feedback from members of the public and the findings of two separate scientific studies.
The first study, commissioned by HDB to inventory the wildlife on the site, had found that the western part of it was richer in biodiversity, comprising more large trees and threatened species.
The second study by the National Parks Board, in consultation with experts, modelled how the Dover plot connects with other forests in Singapore.
This exercise had shown that the site was an important stepping stone for wildlife moving in from the Bukit Timah Nature Reserve north of the site, as well as from the vegetation in the Southern Ridges further down.
These factors informed plans for the site.
While other development projects have incorporated green features before, these elements are usually included on an individual-project basis.
This is the first time vegetation on a site is being safeguarded via a broader landscape approach, in a way that will allow the plot to serve as a stepping stone for wildlife moving from other forests.
Mr Lee said: "Top of our minds was our role as responsible stewards of our land and natural environment, to meet the needs of current Singaporeans as well as future generations, while ensuring that we safeguard resources for (the future)."
Dover Forest is bound by Commonwealth Avenue West, Ghim Moh Link, Ulu Pandan Canal and Clementi Road.
Public housing development plans for the site were released last December, with Mr Lee saying on Facebook then that Build-To-Order flats to be launched this year would be in the area.
Kwan Im Thong Hood Cho Temple Professor of Conservation Koh Lian Pin said: "Of course I would have liked to see the entire Dover Forest conserved. But when there are competing uses of the land from housing needs, for example... the (scientific exercise) is critical for providing the scientific basis to triage which half of the forest to protect."