By Sharon See | Posted: 30 January 2013 2138 hrs


Singapore will soon see a number of new towns in areas like Bidadari, Tengah and Tampines North.

Experts said the development of these places should take local characteristics and history into account, as this will not only retain the town’s history and uniqueness, it will help create a more varied environment in Singapore.

Punggol New Town has come a long way. Its transformation began in 1996, with the government’s Punggol 21 vision to create a waterfront town.

Mdm Koh Geok Kee, a sales assistant, said: “When I first moved here, I had to wait… — wait for the shopping areas to be built, more buses and the beach area. At first it was very dirty, but now it’s very clean, so I like it more and more.”

Ong Jun Long, a student, said: “It’s very quiet and it has all the facilities we need, especially with the new waterway that allows people to enjoy the natural side of life.”

Observers said the development of Punggol could provide a glimpse into the future of Singapore as the government looks for new plots of land to build new towns.

The Population White Paper released on Tuesday listed Bidadari, Tengah and Tampines North as possible sites, especially now that 700,000 housing units are expected to come on stream by 2030.

For these areas, experts said Punggol offers several lessons.

William Lau, president of the Singapore Institute of Planners, said: “Punggol 21 is experimental, a test bed for a higher density plot ratio and in a fairly remote part of Singapore to turn around, to make something attractive.

“So the canal, river, as well as the ease of connection into the city are added points that are already on the ground.

“HDB also has a different theme in Jurong East. Jurong East is on an ‘eco’ theme and is based on Jurong lake district because it’s a wetland with a lot of lakes…

“So we must look at the attributes of the various land available, and we must bring them in, embrace them and (make it) part of our design element.

“By doing so, not only do we have a slice of historical background that we can capitalise on to make them unique, but at the same time, there is a branding retention of the past and adds a uniqueness to the place.”

But observers said the challenge of building new towns is in calibrating the balance between residential space and amenities.

Mr Lau added: “We do note that in many developing countries, new towns are not complete — a lot of apartments and residential (properties) stand alone in the middle of nowhere.

“With the Singapore government, we plan to have a complete, integrated township — where ideally, you’re able to find employment, you’re able to find a (roof) over your head and the various array of activities that’s necessary to complete your lifestyle.

“So from going to the bank, hawker centre, to the wet market, to the malls and to exercise, fields, education for children — all these are brought under the neighbourhood as a complete stop. And therefore, the complete experience of quality living can be self-contained.”

Associate Professor Paulin Straughan, a sociologist with the National University of Singapore, said: “To make these towns attractive for new families, infrastructure should be ready — so to have the rail system or bus services set up, to have service providers, amenities, restaurants, supermarkets to be there.

“And before residentship grows, as long as your transportation infrastructure is in place, people from outside the neighbourhood would be able to come by. And once you have all that in place, then once you set up the homes, I think there will be lots of takers.”

The right mix will not only attract residents, it will also enable businesses to survive in the new neighbourhood, said experts.