Owner of unusual koi tank in Tampines requests permit from town council to keep it

The clear blue tank, with its glass walls sealed to the concrete of the steps and wall, is located on the ground floor of Block 415 in Tampines Street 41. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - The owner of the koi fish tank built on a multi-step entrance of a Housing Board flat was unaware a permit was required for its installation, and has since asked the Tampines Town Council for one.

Tampines GRC MP Baey Yam Keng told The Straits Times on Monday (Aug 13) afternoon that the tank is likely to be allowed if it is found to be structurally sound and safe.

"The signs seem good," said Mr Baey. "But we still need to understand the structure of the tank. There could be a concern about waterproofing and maintenance, but it has been there three years and it's been okay."

He added that what helps the case is that the community has been accepting and that the tank is not obstructive, even though it is located in a public space.

Mr Baey also said there may have to be an undertaking by the owner to be responsible for the tank.

But he sounded a caveat.

"If we do get this through (and give the permit), it does not mean people can do what they like with common spaces," he said. "It's always good to check with the authorities first."

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ST understands that the process of issuing the permit will not be completed in the next few days, but will take at least a week, as the town council has internal discussions about the issue. A town council spokesman declined to reveal any more details.

The town council had earlier called this a unique case.

When ST visited the flat on Monday afternoon, the owner was watering his potted plants.

Declining to give his details, the Chinese man, who looked to be in his 50s, said he decided to have the fish tank on the steps, as it is easier to maintain outside the house, especially since there is no space indoors.

"Outside nicer for everyone to see. The neighbours can appreciate it and enjoy it also," he said with a smile.

The clear blue tank, with its glass walls sealed to the concrete of the steps and wall, is located on the ground floor of Block 415 in Tampines Street 41.

Though the entrance to the low-rise flat is blocked, the residents in the unit can access their home because they also own the adjacent unit.

One of the man's neighbours, who gave his name as Hassan, said the fish tank is "unique and nice". The 53-year-old driver added: "So long as it's safe, no obstruction (and the) town council approves, I think it's okay."

The incident brings to the fore the issue of residents decorating or altering public spaces.

In December, carpenter Tan Koon Tat embellished his Woodlands estate with hand-made Christmas decorations and a snow machine, after he was given approval by the Marsiling-Yew Tee Town Council.

Jalan Besar GRC MP Lily Neo said that while there are town council by-laws that govern common spaces, official approval also depends on the impact on the community.

In March, gold flags at Block 108 Jalan Rajah were removed after residents complained. The 24 flags were put up by freelance artist Priyageetha Dia, 26, as an installation work.

"The feedback from residents was that it looked like joss paper," said Dr Neo.

Mr Baey said the authorities try to be as flexible as possible when it comes to enforcing the by-laws.

"We assess case by case and see how the community accepts it. If neighbours are happy, we are okay with it. But if neighbours dislike it and complain, we may have to enforce the by-law.

"But it's always good to check with the authorities, and town councils should also be open-minded," he said.

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