Parliament: Lim Biow Chuan asks Govt to reconsider plans to redevelop Dakota Crescent

A block of flats at Dakota Crescent.
A block of flats at Dakota Crescent. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - Mr Lim Biow Chuan (Mountbatten) has called on the Government to reconsider plans to redevelop Dakota Crescent.

He cited the estate's merits, noting its architectural, historical and social significance.

"Many residents came to share with me that they will miss the place... They have so many stories to tell and so many memories attached to the place," he said during an adjournment motion in Parliament which allowed him to speak for up to 20 minutes.

In 2014, the Government said that the estate with 17 blocks will be making way for developments under Mountbatten's estate renewal plans. Residents will have to leave by the end of this year (2016), and the vacated site will be reserved for future residential development.

Mr Lim highlighted the efforts of one group of residents which over the past few months, pieced together a conservation report to save several blocks there.

Mr Lim said the group has suggested that the estate be used by arts groups, social enterprises or as rental flats for couples waiting for their Build-To-Order flats.

The Straits Times previously reported that architect Jonathan Poh, who started the Save Dakota Crescent campaign in 2014, was leading the group. Mr Poh told ST that the proposal aims to save 12 blocks there, turning the area into a mixed-used complex with residential units for rent, and space for food and beverage outlets and offices.

Arguing for key sections of the neighbourhood to be retained, Mr Lim noted that Dakota Crescent is one of the first public housing projects developed "to provide mass housing before the role of mass building for the public was passed on to the HDB".

It was built by the Singapore Improvement Trust in 1958 before it was handed over to HDB in 1960. Mr Lim added: "The fact that this estate is older than Singapore is a cause for celebration and should be an important consideration for conservation."

The unique structures there include Blocks 10 and 20 which are similar to the British-built and now-razed blocks that used to stand in St Michael's estate in Whampoa and the Princess and Duchess estates in Queenstown.

Mr Lim said: "Many of these suggestions warrant serious consideration by the town planners. I hope that by speaking at this motion, I can persuade the Government to rethink its redevelopment plans for Dakota Crescent."

Nominated MP Kok Heng Leun also supported the motion. He described the proposal as an "extraordinary community effort" that should be taken seriously.

Mr Kok told the House: "What we have is a potentially pioneering project that could become a milestone in our approach towards urban and community development... one where the people take ownership and proactively negotiate among themselves to put forward viable sustainable plans for the future."

Giving the Government's response, Senior Minister of State for National Development Desmond Lee said that the National Heritage Board commissioned a research project last April to document the history of the Dakota Crescent area, including its key community landmarks and buildings of architectural interest.

He added that the authorities look forward to receiving the conservation proposal and other suggestions.

Mr Lee said: "Our planners are open to look at the different ways in which the area can be redeveloped and rejuvenated, while retaining its distinctive identity and character.

"We look forward to receiving these suggestions, and will engage Mr Lim, and the rest of the heritage community, and the various groups who have worked on this project to come up with a plan that is sensitive to the character and heritage of Dakota, while keeping our eye to the future."