Residents of estates near Shunfu Ville now have to take longer route

A two-year battle over a walkway between two groups of residents came to a head this week when the path was closed.

The newly privatised Shunfu Ville in Thomson, formerly an HUDC estate, closed a walkway that cuts through the estate to the main road - leaving 500 residents in nearby landed properties outraged. The footpath leads to Marymount MRT station, a bus stop, Shunfu market and a PAP Community Foundation kindergarten.

With it closed, residents who live in the Thomson Garden area have to take a longer path of about 500m to 600m, a route that is "punishing" for the large group of elderly people in the neighbourhood.

"When I need to see the doctor, I need to walk one big round to take a taxi. When I walk to the market, it is very hard for me," said Madam Chiam Lan Hen, 76, who has just undergone knee surgery and relies on a walking stick.

But on their part, Shunfu Ville residents said the walkway issue has held up their privatisation bid for two years, and that the land it is on is now their responsibility.

One resident who declined to be named said: "If any of them falls and gets hurt while using the walkway, they can technically sue us." Earlier this year, a paralysed man sued Sembawang Town Council when he suffered spinal injuries after slipping on a wet floor. Both sides came to a confidential settlement.

The Shunfu Ville pro-tem committee, which disbanded after the HDB approved its privatisation bid late last month, made the decision to close the walkway, which was locked on Wednesday.

Before the fateful action, it supposedly suggested to Thomson Garden neighbourhood committee chairman Eugene Lee that residents sign indemnity forms to protect Shunfu Ville before using the walkway. But Mr Lee said yesterday that the request was never an "official one". Of the 10 residents that The Straits Times spoke to yesterday, most did not know of the indemnity form idea.

The Straits Times understands that Shunfu Ville residents want to redevelop the land that the walkway cuts through. Its new management committee will be elected in June or July to spearhead the plans.

Shunfu Ville first got the requisite 75 per cent or more votes from its 358 units supporting privatisation in 2008.

But it received HDB approval only this year, due to a delay that its former pro-tem committee said was caused by negotiations with the area's then MP Hri Kumar Nair to preserve the walkway. Suggestions such as a land swop - to keep the walkway public in exchange for another piece of state land - were bandied about during this period, according to minutes of the pro-tem committee's meetings.

Mr Nair did not respond to a request for comment by press time.

The area's new MP, Minister of State for Finance and Transport Josephine Teo, is due to meet residents today to discuss the issue.

Mr Nair and Mrs Teo are MPs in Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC.

In a video filmed in February during a community event, Mrs Teo told concerned locals the Shunfu Ville residents "are very upset" over the delay in the privatisation. "We cannot delay it any further. At the end of the day, we have to ask ourselves what is the realistic way to move forward."