New tender for Sengkang temple site draws interest

THE plot of land at the heart of the Sengkang columbarium saga has already attracted interest from potential bidders, days after a new tender for the land was put up on Tuesday.

The Taoist Peng Hong Association, one of two groups that lost the tender of the site at Fernvale Link to private company Eternal Pure Land last year, will be vying for the piece of land again.

It had placed an unsuccessful bid of $4 million last year.

Its chairman, Mr Tan Aik Hock, said: "We will definitely be putting a bid for it. Quite a few parties are interested in it."

This time round, religious groups need not worry about getting edged out by commercial entities for the tender, as the Housing Board has set more eligibility conditions in the tender.

"The Fernvale Link site was re-tendered to restore the original planning intent of a Chinese temple development. Hence, only religious organisations can tender for the site," said a spokesman for the Ministry of National Development.

The new tender for the 2,000 sq m site, which closes on Aug 4, comes almost two months after the authorities terminated the previous one.

Early last month, the ministry signed a mutual termination agreement with Eternal Pure Land after a backlash from residents in the area. They said a commercial firm should not have been allowed to bid for land reserved for religious development.

Even though temples are allowed to build columbariums under Urban Redevelopment Authority guidelines, Mr Tan said the association will not build one should it get the site, given the uproar previously.

"We want to keep it as a traditional Chinese temple."

A few Buddhist groups have also expressed interest in the site, said the Venerable Seck Kwang Phing, president of the Singapore Buddhist Federation.

He declined to name them, citing confidentiality as the tender process is still ongoing.

But a spokesman for the Xing Guang Maitreya Society, the third bidder for the original tender last year, said it would not participate in the new tender. "It's too near residences, which is troublesome," the spokesman said in Mandarin.

Tender documents uploaded on the HDB website showed that provisions had been put in place to allow only religious groups to bid for the land.

"To qualify for participation in this tender, the tenderer must be established or constituted for the advancement of religion," said the documents.

For-profit companies have been excluded from the tender. Only registered societies, charities and non-profit companies can qualify.

The group that secures the tender must continue to be a non-profit religious group, society or charity throughout the entire term of the 30-year lease.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 26, 2015, with the headline 'New tender for Sengkang temple site draws interest'. Subscribe