Ah, Springleaf. We can hear the calls of "One prata ‘kosong’ and one with egg, please! Add teh tarik, thank you!"
If you know, you know: we’re talking about Springleaf Prata Place, a well-known eatery that got its eponymous name from the same tranquil estate off Upper Thomson.
But instead of thinking about Springleaf Prata today, we’ll be focusing on the recently announced plans for Springleaf New Town. Springleaf is slated to become a green development with plans for a larger nature park, more housing and park connectors, and more.
The authorities are also taking steps to conserve as much of the site’s rich biodiversity and natural elements as possible. As for connectivity, Springleaf MRT station on the Thomson-East Coast Line is already running, so that’s a boon for those travelling to this area.
URA Masterplan Overview: Springleaf
On 6 June 2022, the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) launched a public exhibition at its URA Centre Atrium, called “Space For Our Dreams”. This exhibition showcased the URA’s plans for its Long-Term Plan Review, a culmination of the Government agency’s year-long public engagement and the resultant planning concepts, strategies and proposals to guide our island nation’s long-term development.
One of the key pillars is “Steward: The Green and Blue”, which highlights the importance of safeguarding Singapore’s natural spaces by incorporating environmental considerations at the heart of our long-term planning approach with the goal of transforming our Little Red Dot into a City in Nature.
For this pillar, Springleaf gets a special mention, as proposals for the future housing estate will include adopting a biodiversity-sensitive approach and providing for an ecological corridor through the site, said URA in a press release.
To be more specific, Springleaf is bounded by Seletar Expressway, Mandai Road, and Upper Thomson Road. The 33-hectare site is located between Springleaf Nature Park and Lower Seletar Reservoir to the east, and the Central Catchment Nature Reserve and Upper Seletar Reservoir to the west.
Fun fact: Springleaf formed part of the Nee Soon Swamp Forest before the Seletar Expressway was built. A lot of the site is forested, and the urban areas are mostly low-rise on the fringe along Upper Thomson Road (that’s where the new Springleaf MRT Station, the former Seletar Institute and the former Nee Soon Post Office are located as well).
On the URA Master Plan, zones in Springleaf have been carved out since 2014 for mixed commercial and residential, park and a reserve site. In future, especially with the opening of the TEL, the area will see the development of about 2,000 new homes and more “nature-based recreation opportunities”.
Here’s a quick overview of what green developments we can expect for Springleaf New Town.
Springleaf New Town: Upcoming Green Developments
|Green development||What to expect|
|Protecting nature, preserving biodiversity||Minimising environmental impact on the area, enhancing connectivity with adjacent forests, and creating new habitats|
|Expansion of park areas||Bigger green space, expansion to 10ha to 15ha|
|Integration of architecture with greenery||Preserving heritage architecture by melding them with elements of a public park, designing buildings with green facades and keeping building footprints small|
|Public transport links, improved connectivity||Completion of the TEL MRT line that connects to central and east Singapore, and to the wider MRT network|
|Expansion of the Park Connector Network||For better connectivity and to support Singapore’s goal to become a ‘car-lite’ nation|
|Active, Beautiful, Clean water design features||Enhancing drainage infrastructure and waterways for hydrological integrity|
1. Protecting Nature, Preserving Biodiversity
URA’s environmental baseline study found that the forested areas within Springleaf include a variety of habitats, such as a swamp forest, secondary forests and scrubland.
Of note is the core of the swamp, which is home to a particular flora species that are not found elsewhere in Singapore. In addition, there’s also great flora and fauna diversity within the site – 211 species of flora (138 natives, with many of them, categorised as Vulnerable, Endangered and Critically Endangered) and 296 species of fauna (52 are of conservation significance, including the Sunda pangolin and smooth-coated otter).
Based on this study, areas within Springleaf Forest were then designated as Significant Conservation Areas and the immediate surrounding areas as ‘No-Go Zones’.
In addition, there are plans to enhance connectivity between Springleaf and the adjacent forests, for the benefit of wildlife. What’s proposed is targeted reforestation or revegetation of corridors; such as the Seletar Expressway underpass and the Sungei Seletar riparian vegetation. New shared habitats such as houses raised on stilts within the forest (“tree cottages) are also proposed to allow wildlife continued mobility within the forest.
Read more here.
2. Expansion of Park Areas
According to a Straits Times article, about 8.5ha of the Springleaf site is currently zoned as park land. It reported that a URA spokesman said the designated park area is now to be expanded to 10ha to 15ha.
This was based on recommendations from a 2020 environmental impact assessment that URA did, following its 2018 environmental baseline study that involved a multidisciplinary team that included landscape architects and ecologists.
Increasing the area covered by the park could help to minimise the environmental impact through mitigation measures such as an additional 30m buffer zone to safeguard the Significant Conservation Areas and ‘No-Go Zones’.
3. Integration of Architecture With Greenery
In the early days, Springleaf was part of the former Nee Soon Village, which was a rubber plantation that had shophouses, homes, a rubber factory and businesses along the main roads. A school, the now-defunct Upper Thomson Secondary School/Seletar Institute, was also built, as well as the Nee Soon Post Office. Later, these amenities and residents relocated to Yishun New Town.
Today, the iconic T-shaped school building and colonial-style former post office are significant heritage buildings. Not only will their history be preserved, but the structures will also continue to serve the community as communal and recreational spaces integrated with the verdant surrounds as a public park.
The URA plans also mention 2,000 new dwelling units within the site, which leverages the improved accessibility with the opening of the Springleaf TEL MRT station in 2021. According to reports, these planned residences are to be private housing.
Other guidelines for housing and other man-made structures in the area include limiting the development to existing urbanised and less sensitive areas, ensuring that building footprints are kept small to minimise habitat loss and directing the development towards existing “disturbed” grounds (land previously affected by development).
Buildings will also be designed with greener facades in order to minimise bird strikes, where winged wildlife collide – often fatally – with urban structures that could disorient them at night or confuse them with reflections of the sky.
4. Public Transport Links, Improved Connectivity
In 2025, the last stage Thomson-East Coast Line will be complete, when Bedok South and Sungei Bedok – the last 2 stations – are opened. When that happens, residents in the north of Singapore will be linked to the central and eastern parts of the island.
In 2021, the Springleaf MRT station on the TEL MRT line was completed, improving connectivity to the north (Woodlands) and to the Thomson/Caldecott areas. Later this year, Stage 3 of the TEL MRT line will be completed, which links the line to Orchard, Outram Park, Shenton Way, and to Gardens by the Bay. TEL Stage 4, which comprises stations in the east, is slated to open in 2024.
By having increased access to public transport, the hope is more will pick convenient and affordable bus and MRT rides over driving. We’ll be able to lower our carbon footprint and reduce traffic congestion. In line with the Sustainable Living pillar of our Singapore Green Plan 2030, it’s hoped that three-quarters of trips will be made on public transport by then, up from 64% today.
In addition, our rail network will be expanded to 360km by 2030, up from 230km in 2019. This means that by 2030, 8 in 10 households will live within a 10-minute walk of an MRT station.
5. Expansion of the Park Connector Network
Also contributing to a ‘car-lite’ Singapore is the proposed expansion of the Park Connector Network linking to Springleaf. This is also in line with our Singapore Green Plan 2030, which aims to achieve net zero emissions to combat climate change for a sustainable future.
One of the pillars of the SG Green Plan 2030 is City in Nature, where 50% more land (200ha) will be set aside for nature parks. The plan is for every household to live within a 10-minute walk of a park, and cycling paths will be tripled from 460km to around 1,320km by 2030 to encourage walking, cycling and active mobility. More than $315 million will be spent to expand and enhance parks, the park connector network and recreational routes.
It was also announced in June this year that a future Khatib Nature Corridor is in the works, connecting the Central Catchment Nature Reserve with an upcoming 40ha nature park in Khatib. Springleaf is located between the Central Catchment Nature Reserve, with Upper Seletar Reservoir to its west, and Springleaf Nature Park and Lower Seletar Reservoir to its east.
The Khatib Nature Corridor will link the three new parks, including the one in Springleaf, allowing wildlife to travel safely between the Central Catchment Nature Reserve and Khatib Bongsu Nature Park. For those looking to stretch their legs (or bicycle wheels), this new corridor will also be linked to popular routes that include the Coast-to-Coast Northern Trail, the Round Island Route, and Central Corridor.
6. Active, Beautiful, Clean Water Design Features
Part and parcel of every ecological site is PUB’s Active, Beautiful, Clean Waters (ABC Waters) programme. For Springleaf, water design features will be integrated to enhance the drainage infrastructure and waterways to maintain the hydrological integrity of the site.
What’s in Store for Springleaf
Although we’re quite sad that there aren’t currently any plans for new HDB BTO flats in the Springleaf area, the new green developments are pretty exciting (and a relief for nature lovers). These developments not only benefit those staying in the Upper Thomson area, as the TEL MRT line will make travelling to Springleaf a breeze in the near future.
We’re also looking forward to the new nature corridor, expanded nature park, more cycling and walking paths and definitely the upcoming communal spaces at Springleaf.
If you’re looking at moving to the Springleaf area, check out these property listings close to the Springleaf TEL MRT station, including some gorgeous new condos like The Essence. For more affordable HDB flat options, here are some HDB units close to Woodlands South MRT station (one stop after Springleaf on the TEL MRT line) or HDB units close to Lentor MRT station (one stop after).
For environmentally-conscious home buyers, be sure to check out the Green Score of each property listing to help you make a sustainable choice.
Meanwhile, keep your eyes peeled while we endeavour to bring you more updates on Springleaf New Town as soon as any announcements are made!
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This article was written by Mary Wu, who hopes to share what she’s learnt from her home-buying and renovation journey with PropertyGuru readers. When she’s not writing, she’s usually baking up a storm or checking out a new cafe in town.
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