Singaporeans prioritise green spaces, affordable housing in URA poll on long-term land use plans

Eight in 10 respondents felt that parks, nature spaces and greenery are key to making Singapore a good place to live, work and play. ST PHOTO: NG SOR LUAN

SINGAPORE - Eight in 10 of those who responded to a poll on long-term land use plans felt that parks, nature spaces and greenery are key to making Singapore a good place to live, work and play.

A similar number said affordable housing was critical in the poll by the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA), which gathered Singaporeans' views as part of a year-long consultation on the long-term plan review.

More than 5,600 people responded to the poll between July 17 and Aug 27, said URA on Sunday (Sept 12), adding that respondents were of diverse backgrounds and profiles.

Previously known as the concept plan, the long-term plans will guide development over the next 50 years and beyond. They are reviewed every decade to take into account evolving trends and changing demands.

URA said it is currently analysing responses from the poll and will announce key findings at a later date.

Meanwhile, it has held three workshops since Aug 28, in which about 200 members of the public - representing various segments of the community - discussed the poll's preliminary findings.

The third workshop took place on Sunday, where participants considered topics such as what will make Singapore a good living environment, as well as their concerns and the values they hope the country will uphold.

At the virtual workshop, 75 participants were split into smaller groups to discuss these issues before reassembling to share what they had discussed.

Their top concern about the future was the impact of climate change, with many also keen to see Singaporeans live in an environmentally sustainable manner.

Second Minister for National Development Indranee Rajah, who hosted Sunday's workshop and sat in for some of the small group discussions, said the idea of sustainable living and sustainability goes beyond addressing climate change, as she touched on the sustainable use of land.

"I noticed that in one of the (small group) chats, there was discussion on lease expiring, and would it be possible to extend the leases," she said, citing the 99-year leases for Housing Board flats.

"If you look at it from a sustainability viewpoint, that wouldn't be what we want to do," said Ms Indranee, adding that 99-year-old buildings were not designed to last longer than that, and may face issues such as leaking pipes and spalling concrete.

She said the Government has plans to redevelop ageing precincts, citing the Voluntary Early Redevelopment Scheme that was announced in 2018, which will see residents vote on whether to give up and be compensated for their flats at about the 70-year mark.

"You can see that this is a sustainable cycle. Because what eventually we are doing, we are recycling all the land in Singapore, one part after another, renewing, rebuilding for future generations," said Ms Indranee.

She also said that values will anchor Singaporeans' collective vision for the future. About 80 per cent of the poll's respondents said they wanted society to be inclusive and caring, with workshop participants like Ms Pek Aiwei suggesting more could be done to meet the needs of an ageing population.

"With smaller family sizes and a population that is ageing, the burden of care will fall disproportionately on the younger generation in about 20 years, so it's critical to consider long-term solutions to this," said the 36-year-old, who works as a risk manager in a bank.

"Whether it's providing housing solutions for the elderly and their caretakers, or the stress of relocating old people when rejuvenation projects are called, land use policies have a large role to play in alleviating potential problems," she added.

Another participant, Mr Alister Ong, 28, said he was heartened to see that inclusiveness resonated with other Singaporeans - a value close to his heart as he has cerebral palsy and uses a motorised wheelchair.

"Inclusiveness to me means making places accessible to all, and I have enjoyed being able to access public transport and green spaces easily. I hope this can continue," said the diversity and inclusion champion.

Besides ensuring access, spaces that encourage interaction are also important so communities can continue to be built, bringing together various segments of society, he added.

The next stage of the consultation will touch on specific themes such as the environment, living, work and mobility.

What's next?

Public engagement for the long-term plan review began in July and will run till June next year. The exercise comprises four phases:

- Phase 1 (July to September 2021): Through polls and workshops, URA will collate feedback on Singaporeans' hopes, aspirations and concerns, as well as discuss what makes a good living environment.

- Phase 2 (October to December 2021): Facilitated discussions will be open to various segments of the population such as residents, businessmen, professionals and academics. They will address strategies to achieve the vision and shared values of Singaporeans, and discuss future trends and developments.

Singaporeans will also be invited to contribute feedback on how specific areas should be planned, like housing towns, workplaces and recreational areas.

- Phase 3 (January to March 2022): The public will be invited to give their inputs on strategies developed during Phase 2, through channels like townhall sessions.

- Phase 4 (April to June 2022): Long-term land use plans will be presented to the public.

In the coming months, URA is also working with partner agencies to organise events that will address specific topics:

September 2021: Future of the environment

October 2021: Future of living

November 2021: Future of work

January 2022: Future of mobility

This month, the public can attend the Singapore Institute of Landscape Architects' "Bees & City in Nature" webinar on Sept 18, or the World Cities Summit's "Climate-Ready Cities" webinar on Sept 23.

Members of the public can visit this website to find out about the monthly themes and the list of related events, as well as to provide feedback on the long-term plans.

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