Budget debate: Pandemic will change Singapore's land-use plans and designs, says Indranee

The Ministry of National Development and Urban Redevelopment Authority have embarked on a review of Singapore's long term land-use plans.
The Ministry of National Development and Urban Redevelopment Authority have embarked on a review of Singapore's long term land-use plans.ST PHOTO: GIN TAY

SINGAPORE - The coronavirus pandemic will change Singapore's land-use plans and designs, and has already raised questions on how much office and retail space is needed, in view of the shift towards e-commerce and telecommuting, said Second Minister for National Development Indranee Rajah on Thursday (March 4).

To guide future development, the Ministry of National Development and the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) have embarked on a review of Singapore's long term land-use plans, said Ms Indranee, who is also Minister in the Prime Minister's Office and Second Minister for Finance.

The long-term planning review, as it is called, is not a new exercise. The last major review was conducted in 2011.

"With changing needs and emerging trends, it is timely to refresh these plans," she told Parliament during the debate on MND's budget. "As more of Singapore's land is built up, we must plan not only for development, but also for re-development."

The global lockdowns have led many people to ask if this was the end of the Central Business District, noted Ms Indranee.

"The disconcerting quiet of the CBD during circuit breaker sharpened the importance of planning for more mixed use in our city centre," she said.

But the CBD Incentive Scheme and the Strategic Development Incentive (SDI) scheme are well-placed to facilitate this shift, she said in response to Mr Louis Chua (Sengkang GRC) and Mr Henry Kwek (Kebun Baru).

Since 2019, the Government has offered incentives to encourage the conversion of older office buildings in the CBD into mixed-use developments. These will have offerings such as hotels, residences, gyms, grocery stores and eateries. The SDI similarly incentivises building owners to come together to redevelop and transform precincts in strategic areas across Singapore.

The URA has received nine outline applications under the CBD Incentive Scheme, of which six have been given in-principle approval, while three outline applications were given in-principle approval under the SDI scheme, Ms Indranee said.

"We will continue to monitor the trends accelerated by Covid-19 and factor insights into our plans," she said.

The Government will also study ways to inject community co-working spaces in neighbourhoods, and explore how to make these accessible for vulnerable groups, as suggested by Ms Cheryl Chan (East Coast GRC).

"We will also engage private operators, and examine how we can plan and design our neighbourhoods to support remote working, should the trend persist," she added.

Other areas to consider include planning for an ageing population and to cater to the evolving mindsets of Singaporeans on lifestyles, work, family, nature and heritage.

The long-term planning review will gather feedback from the public, private and people sectors. The URA will tap various platforms to engage Singaporeans throughout the year, Ms Indranee said, adding that the engagement will begin in April and be conducted through means such as polls, workshops and focus group discussions, both in-person and online.

"Given our limited land, difficult conversations on weighing the potential trade-offs, and coming to the right balance on land-use decisions will come up. Yet, we will not shy away from these conversations. We welcome a diversity of views," she said.