Published on Nov 20, 2013 4:15 PM | By Fiona Chan | Straits Times

Compared with its counterparts – Tampines in the Eastern belt of Singapore and Jurong East in the West – Woodlands has lagged so far in its development as a regional centre in which Singaporeans can work, live and play.

But this is set to change under the Urban Redevelopment Authority’s latest Draft Master Plan, which has laid out detailed plans to liven up the area, property consultants said on Wednesday.

“Since the conceptualisation of regional centres, about two decades ago, Woodlands has yet to realise its potential as a decentralised commercial area compared to the development of Tampines and Jurong East,” said Colliers International’s director of research and advisory Chia Siew Chuin.

But with the Woodlands MRT station slated to serve as an interchange connecting the North-South Line with the new Thomson Line, the district is now primed for faster growth, she said.

More Singaporeans are also investing in second homes in Johor Bahru, just north of Woodlands, Ms Chia added. This trend is likely to turn Woodlands into a “conduit for increased economic and human activity”.

She also noted that the latest master plan, released early Wednesday morning, has designated several land sites in Woodlands for commercial and residential use. Some 7 million sq ft of new commercial space is planned for Woodlands Regional Centre and more than 100 ha of land will be made available for development – comparable to Tampines and Jurong Lake District.

“The entire cluster around Woodlands MRT station is set to accelerate with developments in the next five years, housing a variety of commercial activities and jobs that are close to homes,” Ms Chia said.

The URA is also setting aside land in Woodlands to be developed into a cluster for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). The Northshore Innovation Precinct will provide more business opportunities for SMEs, the agency said.

This move is “a signal to the local entrepreneurs that the government is serious about helping the smaller firms to defray operation costs, to help them make it easier and cheaper to tap into mployment sources from across the Causeway”, said property consultancy CBRE on Wednesday.

In all, the plans for Woodlands are designed to turn the district into a vibrant residential and business hub, the URA said in its master plan.

“With new transport connections, fresh commercial space and room to grow, Woodlands Regional Centre is set to realise its full potential as Singapore’s Northern Gateway,” said the agency.