Vacant sites nearby could be alternative to felling Dover Forest for residential use: MP

Holland-Bukit Timah GRC MP Christopher de Souza, who oversees the Ulu Pandan area, identified several vacant sites that could be used instead of Dover Forest. ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

SINGAPORE - Use vacant, underutilised plots of land around the Ghim Moh neighbourhood for public housing instead of clearing the nearby Dover Forest, proposed the area's MP on Monday (Feb 1).

Mr Christopher de Souza (Holland-Bukit Timah GRC), who oversees the Ulu Pandan ward, identified several vacant sites - land that is next to the Ulu Pandan Community Club, the former Raffles Junior College (RJC) campus and a field next to the defunct Ghim Moh Primary School.

He provided these alternatives in Parliament in his adjournment motion, which comes after members of the public, nature groups and politicians raised concerns over the zoning of Dover Forest for residential use.

National Development Minister Desmond Lee had also addressed the issue earlier during Monday's sitting, and said the public consultation period on the fate of the site would be extended by four weeks, till March 1.

Concern over Dover Forest arose after Mr Lee said in December that some build-to-order (BTO) flats to be launched in 2021 would be in Ulu Pandan.

On Monday, Mr de Souza urged the authorities to consider using two land parcels next to Ulu Pandan CC - with gross plot ratios of 4.6 and 4.9 - as BTO or Selective En bloc Redevelopment Scheme (Sers) plots.

Plot ratios guide the maximum allowable intensity of a residential development, with values above 2.8 indicating the potential for very high density housing to be built to above 36 storeys.

Mr de Souza suggested a selective en bloc of six older Ghim Moh blocks - built in 1976 - from the other side of the CC to these empty lots, thereby releasing a "jigsaw piece" for other residents in the neighbourhood to be rehoused into the newly vacated plot, again through Sers.

"This will mean the ability to accommodate new residents in BTO flats as well as provide new flats with new leases for existing Ghim Moh residents," he said.

Should these sites be inadequate to accommodate future housing plans, there is also the option of a large, fallow field at the old Ghim Moh Primary School. An additional site would be the old RJC campus which is currently unused, he added.

"What I am trying to get across today to the planners is the need to think long and hard before making irreversible decisions," Mr de Souza said.

"A 40-year-old forest is home to creatures over many life cycles. Many life cycles of creatures and species create an ecosystem. That ecosystem has been adopted and made to become part of the wider shared landscape of Ulu Pandan residents."

In response, Minister of State for National Development Tan Kiat How said the Government has to juggle protecting Singapore's green spaces with the land use needs of a physically-constrained Republic.

"It is also about balancing the needs of today's generation with those that come after us," said Mr Tan. "And that is why I am very heartened that despite the differing viewpoints we received on the Ulu Pandan site, there was a common thread running through the feedback: There was a strong desire to be responsible stewards for future generations."

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