Sungei Road flea market to make way for future homes

The Sungei Road flea market will cease operations on July 10.
The Sungei Road flea market will cease operations on July 10. PHOTO: ST FILE

The Sungei Road flea market will cease to exist come July.

The authorities issued a multi- agency statement yesterday which gave July 10 as the last day of operations for the approximately eight-decade-old flea market.

Singapore's last free hawking zone will be prepared "to facilitate future residential development use".

Yesterday's government statement was issued jointly by the National Environment Agency (NEA), Ministry of National Development, Ministry of Social and Family Development, Workforce Singapore, National Heritage Board (NHB) and the Singapore Police Force.

Singapore Heritage Society president Chua Ai Lin said she is disappointed that the around 200 vendors have not been provided with an alternative site.

"We will be losing the sense of an organically formed flea market. A whole community will be dispersed and can no longer congregate as second-hand sellers," said Dr Chua .

Many netizens have also expressed dismay at the news.

In 2011, the market was halved to make way for the construction of the new Jalan Besar MRT station. The site had been zoned for residential with commercial use in the 2003 Master Plan.

The authorities acknowledged the site's long history and that it holds special memories for many Singaporeans.

However, the government statement added that "over time, the nature of the site has changed, as reflected in both the profile of vendors and buyers, and type of goods sold".

The authorities have had to conduct checks on the sale of prohibited goods regularly, previous media reports said.

The Government said that street trades "should only be allowed to continue in designated venues like trade fairs and flea markets, rather than on a permanent basis".

The statement said 11 rag- and-bone men who were previously issued permits to operate at Sungei Road will be offered the option of operating lock-up stalls at Golden Mile Food Centre and Chinatown Market.

Rental will be waived for the first year and a 50 per cent rental rebate off the subsidised rent will be given for the second year. An inter-agency briefing will be held for them on Friday.

The 11 men are from a pool of 31 rag-and-bone men who operated on the streets and were excluded from the Government's street hawker resettlement programme to purpose-built markets and hawker centres back in the 1970s and 1980s "because of their chosen trade".

According to NHB's research, the flea market dates back to the 1930s. It was later known as the Thieves Market, offering bargains for second-hand and vintage goods.

Meanwhile, vendors who are registered with the police under the Secondhand Goods Dealers Act will need to provide a new business address if they wish to continue to ply their second-hand goods trade elsewhere.

Mr Koh Ah Koon, 76, the president of the Association for the Recycling of Second Hand Goods representing about 70 vendors, said: "At least 80 per cent of us are elderly folk in our 60s, 70s and 80s who depend on our stalls for income. We hope we will be able to keep this traditional trade and way of displaying our wares alive."

In the statement, the authorities said social service offices will facilitate financial assistance and Workforce Singapore will provide employment services under existing schemes to eligible vendors. They also noted that the NHB has conducted research and documentation efforts on the market and its vendors to preserve memories of the site.

The authorities said notices were put up at the market yesterday to inform the vendors of the closure.

Sights and sounds of Sungei market.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 15, 2017, with the headline 'Sungei Road flea market to make way for future homes'. Subscribe