Plans to build a commercial columbarium on a site in Fernvale have been scrapped as it was never intended for such use.
Responding to queries in parliament on Thursday, National Development Minister Khaw Boon Wan said the original plan was to develop the site into a Chinese temple.
This was clearly stated under the Master Plan and in HDB’s marketing brochures for Build-to-Order (BTO) flats in the area, noted the Minister.
The issue came to light after several would-be-residents of the nearby Fernvale Lea BTO project requested refunds from the housing board as they felt plans for such columbarium facilities were not made clear.
Mr Khaw shared that while the Master Plan does provide sites for private columbariums, the tender documents are worded differently as “columbarium” and not “place of worship”.
On the land tender process for places of worship, he revealed that the government invites religious organisations to bid for such sites, but companies can also participate.
“Some religious organisations form companies to enable and facilitate their ownership and development of such PW (place of worship) sites. This has been the practice since 1991 when State Lands were put up for tenders for PW use. The assumption is that only companies affiliated to religious organisations would participate in such tenders.”
In the case of Eternal Pure Land (EPL), the winning tenderer for the Fernvale site, Mr Khaw said HDB awarded the plot to EPL under the impression that it was a vehicle for a religious organisation to build and own a Chinese temple.
Since its intention to run a commercial columbarium is not in line with the government’s plan for the site, the land will be restored for use as a Chinese temple and talks are underway with EPL on how to achieve this.
Mr Khaw added that the government launched a review late last year to improve the land tender process for places of worship, such as tightening eligibility requirements for tenderers.
“We have been engaging religious groups on the review. The Sengkang temple case has highlighted the necessity for such a review. I will provide more information when the review is completed.”
Image: Artist’s impression of the Sengkang columbarium. (Photo by LIFE CORPORATION LIMITED)