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Published February 10, 2007

Mah projects a distinctive, vibrant S'pore

Plans include doubling of rail network and more land for new growth sectors


(SINGAPORE) More land set aside for new growth sectors, a doubling of the rail network, mega parks at Marina Bay and lushly landscaped HDB estates with environmentally friendly features - these are some of the proposals the government announced yesterday after completing a mid-term land-use plan review.

National Development Minister Mah Bow Tan painted a broad picture of a vibrant and distinctive Singapore over the next 40-50 years when he spoke at the Urban Redevelopment Authority's (URA) corporate plan seminar. And he revealed how the quality of the island's environment will be maintained despite more intense demand for land.

URA and other agencies have completed a review of the 2001 concept plan, which used a long-term population parameter of 5.5 million. This has been revised to 6.5 million in the mid-term review because the population has already hit 4.5 million. The concept plan is reviewed every 10 years but was re-examined mid-term for the first time last year because changes in the economy and society are happening faster.

New growth sectors like aerospace and medical travel mean land will be needed for a new aerospace hub near Seletar Airport, as well as new private hospitals and medical suites.

High value-added manufacturing industries such as petrochemicals, wafer fab and pharmaceuticals will need more land too.

And also making demands on space will be hotels and big tourism projects, housing and recreational areas for a larger population, and the island's expanding gas, power and telecommunications infrastructure.

Despite all of these demands, Singapore has sufficient land to cater to future needs, Mr Mah said yesterday. In fact, the government aims to make the island's green and clean environment a competitive advantage that offers economic opportunities and a sustainable physical environment.

To decentralise business activity outside the city centre, Jurong, Paya Lebar and Woodlands will be developed as new commercial centres. The existing Central Business District and Bugis will be upgraded with new street furniture and night lighting. Public spaces and pedestrian connections will also be enhanced.

To meet greater transport needs without undermining the quality of the environment, a comprehen sive review of the transport system is being carried out. Mr Mah said the government aims to increase the trips taken on public transport during the morning peak period from 63 per cent now to at least 70 per cent in 15 years. The rail network may also double as lines are added to new areas, and integration between rail and bus services will be improved. The government has previously announced that it is studying the feasibility of a new 33-station Downtown Line, linking developments at Marina Bay to housing estates such as Choa Chu Kang and MacPherson.

To manage the growth in car use, private transport ownership and usage restraint measures will be reviewed and refined. Green vehicles and environmentally friendly modes of transport will be encouraged. At the same time, new expressways will be added. Many new roads will be underground or on viaducts to optimise the use of space.

Public housing estates will be rejuvenated. The Housing and Development Board (HDB) is exploring the concept of 'Housing in a Park', and lushly landscaped car-parking pod iums will be integrated with housing blocks. Environmentally friendly features will be installed in flats to save water and energy, and centralised chutes for recyclable items will be provided.

Lift upgrading to provide stops on every floor will be accelerated, and HDB is exploring the possibility of allowing residents to decide on communal facilities at precinct level. More communal spaces will be provided at podiums and possibly mid-levels of residential blocks to encourage social interaction, Mr Mah said. Lush landscaping in the city is also a priority - 100ha of prime land around Marina Bay will be set aside to build three new inter-linked waterfront gardens. The gardens at Marina South will focus on horticultural displays to showcase plants of economic importance in international trade and their relevance to people in South-east Asia. And there will be food and aquatic gardens at Marina East with interactive water features. Facilities and features will be added to existing parks and new parks will be created island-wide. Connectors that link parks with town centres, sports complexes and homes will be increased from 70km now to 200km by 2012 and more than 400km eventually.

Mr Mah explained that this way, recreation space will be expanded and accessibility to parks and the coastline within will be increased with minimal land take.

Night life in Singapore will be jazzed up as new tourist attractions come on stream. More international events will be organised, and promenades and landscaped spaces for residents to enjoy the waterfront will be created.