Government adopts consultative, calibrated approach in balancing heritage preservation with development needs

February 26, 2021

Ministry of National Development (MND) reveals that URA closely works with NHB as well as expert panels and key stakeholders to integrate heritage considerations upstream in its land use planning process.

With built heritage strengthening Singaporeans’ sense of identity and history, the government takes a consultative and calibrated approach in balancing heritage preservation and the city-state’s development needs.

“As a small city-state, we need to balance the importance of our built heritage with the need to develop and renew our cityscape to meet current and future needs,” said the Ministry of National Development (MND) in a written reply to Parliament on Thursday (25 February).

Currently, a systematic framework is in place to incorporate heritage consideration in planning and development process.

“Every development proposal is subject to a robust planning evaluation process that considers the development’s impact on traffic, public health, environment, as well as built heritage,” explained MND.

It was responding to MP Leon Perera’s question on whether the government will introduce a mandatory heritage impact assessment regime for sites deemed of heritage value by a reasonable number of non-profit organisations or members of the public when such sites are proposed for redevelopment or change in land use.

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He also asked how URA’s Planning Department and other statutory boards work with the National Heritage Board (NHB) to incorporate heritage considerations in their planning processes.

To this, MND shared that URA closely works with NHB as well as expert panels and key stakeholders to integrate heritage considerations upstream in its land use planning process.

NHB, for instance, conducts studies like tangible heritage survey to document the history of Singapore’s buildings and sites.

“Such studies help inform agencies, to better incorporate heritage considerations into the planning and development of each site,” said MND.

The views of NHB and its expert panel is also taken into consideration when determining a building’s conservation merit.

“For specific development proposals, agencies work closely with local stakeholders and interest groups, as well as regular expert panels such as the Heritage and Identity Partnership (HIP), to ensure that heritage aspects are adequately addressed upfront and sensitively integrated into the planning and design of the development,” shared MND.

“The HIP advises URA on strategies to manage built heritage, and represents diverse backgrounds and specialisations, including the heritage and arts sector, academia, business, and the building and real estate industry.”

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It added that URA also engages other industry experts as well as the wider public via design competitions and requests-for-proposals on plans for certain sites such as the former Pasir Panjang Power District, the former Bukit Timah Fire Station, and the Paya Lebar Air Base site.

MND revealed that URA will be engaging researchers to conduct research on areas of heritage interest as part of its ongoing review of long-term land use plans and strategies.

“This will help to form the basis for our assessment of longer-term development options, and guide downstream planning strategies,” it said, adding that URA will seek feedback and views its long-term plans later this year.

“We look forward to partnering stakeholders in shaping our future plans, striking a careful balance to protect our built heritage as we develop and rejuvenate our city.”

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