SINGAPORE - Flower vendors and fortune tellers with makeshift stalls near two popular Waterloo Street temples will need a licence from next year to operate from designated lots as the authorities move in to deal with crowding and obstruction.
From Jan 4 next year, the 41 street vendors will have to progressively move into these allocated lots, which measure 2m by 1.5m.
In a joint statement on Tuesday (Dec 8), the Singapore Land Authority (SLA), Singapore Food Agency and Urban Redevelopment Authority said this will allow for safe distancing between street vendors in the area, unobstructed fire engine access and give pedestrians more room to walk.
"Currently, the pedestrian mall is often busy and filled with stall set-ups and discarded boxes that obstruct the pathways.
"These are not conducive to both the street vendors and visitors to the area, and are potential fire hazards," the agencies said.
By congregating in close proximity, the street vendors also pose public health and safety concerns in view of the Covid-19 pandemic, they added.
The vendors comprise 19 fortune tellers, 19 flower vendors, two reflexologists and one cobbler.
The flower vendors will be allocated space closer to the temples, said the agencies.
For decades, they have been free to choose where to operate on the pedestrianised mall in front of the Kwan Im Thong Hood Cho Temple and Sri Krishnan Temple.
The vendors will also need to obtain a Temporary Occupation Licence, which will cost $48.15 per month.
The agencies said those who face financial difficulties can approach the SLA for assistance. The vendors will only have to start paying the fee from June 2021.
All existing vendors will be granted a lot, which will be allocated via balloting.
SLA said the licence, which is renewable on a three-year basis subject to redevelopment plans, is not transferable, and the 41 vendors are not allowed to sublet their stalls.
No new licence will be granted if existing vendors retire.
Works to create the space for vendors will be done in phases with no disruption to their business, added SLA.
Jalan Besar GRC MP Denise Phua, who oversees the area around Waterloo Street, said that residents have, over the years, asked for the area to be made cleaner, safer and less cluttered.
"I'm heartened the agencies are ensuring that all existing vendors will each be given a lot, and all of them can continue to ply their trade," she said, adding that the authorities have done their best to balance the needs of all stakeholders.
The 41 vendors, who have been operating there for between 10 and 15 years on average, were informed of the changes on Tuesday, including reflexologist Ng Song Hua.
The 78-year-old, who has been serving customers in the area for 18 years, said he understands the rationale for the move, adding that the $48.15 fee is a reasonable sum.
"The only issue is that we will now have a smaller space to work in and wheelchair-bound customers may not be fully sheltered. It'll be good if we can get a bit more space," said Mr Ng, whose stall now occupies an area measuring 4.5m by 2m.
Flower vendor Catherine Teo, 65, whose family has been running a stall in the area since the 1960s, said: "The changes will also make the area more attractive for tourists."
She doubts the move will impact her business.
"The authorities assured us that we will still be near the temple, and our regular customers will still know where to find us," added Madam Teo.