By Imelda Saad | Posted: 31 January 2013 1210 hrs


Singapore plans to increase its land supply by nearly 8 per cent to 76,600 hectares to accommodate its projected population of 6.9 million by 2030, according to the Land Use Plan report released on Thursday.

Singapore’s total land area now stands at 71,400 hectares.

The details came just two days after the release of the White Paper on Population outlining Singapore’s strategies for a sustainable population.

About 60 per cent will be set aside for housing, industry and community facilities — up from the current 52 per cent. And a large part of the additional land will come from reclamation and freeing up reserve land.

Minister for National Development Khaw Boon Wan said: “Some Singaporeans, in fact, many say, ‘How could it be? It’s already so crowded — 5.3 million — buses (and) trains. How is it possible to have 6.9 million population? The planners must be mad!’

“I think that’s a legitimate reaction and of course they ask good questions — which is, how can you be sure, more population, but quality of life will remain the same but in fact even better?

“Actually the answer is yes, it’s possible — you can have a larger population and yet have a better quality of life, but conditions must be right.

“So what are those conditions — one, there must be planning, which means good long-term planning and secondly, there must be good infrastructure that must be built ahead of demand.

“So if those conditions are there then you can (resolve) this seemingly difficult problem — how to achieve better quality of life despite a greater or larger population.

“And we are confident because we have time, because we are talking about the future — 2020, 2025, 2030 — and as planners our mantra is the Boy Scouts’ motto – ‘prepare for the worst but hope for the best’.

“So in fact, from the planners’ point of view, we need aggressive projection. The figure 6.9 sounds aggressive but from the planners’ point of view, we need aggressive figures, aggressive projections, so that we can prepare for the worst.

“The worst is if we plan for the best and then the worst comes, then you’ll be under providing as what happened in the last few years.”

Some golf courses and military training grounds will make way for redevelopment.

There are now 18 golf courses in Singapore, covering about 1,500 hectares of land with leases that run for 30 years. The Law Ministry said the majority of the leases will expire between 2021 and 2030, adding that some of the golf courses would have to be phased out and the land put to other uses.

“We are working with the planning agencies over the next few months to provide clarity to the various golf courses on whether or not their leases can be extended,” the ministry said.

To accommodate 700,000 new homes by 2030, there are plans for new towns, new homes in existing estates and more homes in the central region.

For example, Tengah — a military training area — will be transformed into a new town with about 55,000 homes. The plan is to consolidate military training activities at Tekong once reclamation there is complete.

Most of the reclamation will be done at Tekong — an offshore island located on the north eastern part of Singapore, used for military training — and Tuas, in the south western part of the island.

Beyond 2030, potential reclamation areas include Marina East, Changi East and Pasir Ris. These are also marked as reserve sites that can support future needs such as housing and industries.

Other possible future reclamation sites include clusters around the western islands and the southern parts of Singapore.

Another strategy is to go underground — by expanding current uses of underground space — for example, with train lines, underground expressways and retail malls.

The government is also exploring more uses for underground caverns for industrial and commercial developments.

Addressing concerns over the quality of life, policy makers have painted the picture of what is described as “highly liveable, high density towns”.

These will be towns with a full range of amenities from childcare centres, hospitals and recreational nodes.

By 2017, 20,000 more childcare places will be made available near homes, transport nodes and workplaces, up from the current 92,000.

By 2020, there will be an additional 2,200 acute hospital beds — 30 per cent more than the number available today.

In addition, there will be 1,900 community hospital beds added to the supply by 2020 — up from the current 800 beds.

By 2030, at least 85 per cent of Singaporeans will live within a 10- to 15-minute walk to a park.

Plans are already underway to improve public transport connectivity by ramping up the rail network and improving bus connectivity. To alleviate congestion around main commercial centres, jobs will be brought closer to homes.

So there are plans for two new commercial belts in the northern and southern parts of Singapore.

The North Coast Innovation Corridor will be ready in about 10 to 15 years’ time while the Southern Waterfront City is expected to be developed after 2027, when the existing port relocates to Tuas.

Mr Khaw said: “The underlying principle is not quantity, it’s not statistics, the underlying principle is quality.

“In the next phase of development in Singapore, let us strive for quality. Quality living, quality worklife, quality environment, quality schools, quality pre-schools that have better balance in life. Quality in inter-people relationships, a much more gracious society.

“I think that is a life worth looking forward to and that is a vision that is within our grasp. We can achieve it with better resources and better attitude, it is totally within our grasp.

“This is not to say we don’t have current problems, overcrowding etc etc but you know we are addressing that as fast as we can and they will be resolved.

“Please do give us some time but even as we resolve current problems, our eyes must be on our future.

“So the key is planning and infrastructure and with time, we can achieve both, so please don’t worry.”

– CNA/ck