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Singapore to unveil pilot areas of underground masterplan next year

Singapore to unveil pilot areas of underground masterplan next year

According to the Straits
Times
, pilot areas of an underground masterplan in the works that maps out Singapore’s underground spaces and their potential uses is set to be unveiled next year.

As part
of the next Master Plan that guides Singapore’s development in the medium term,
the underground map aims to provide the first comprehensive look at
subterranean spaces, underground infrastructure and their potential uses.

Minister
of National Development Mr Lawrence Wong, as quoted by the Straits Times, said that
the Government has to take stock (on underground infrastructure) and have a
good database of information and are compiling it as a central repository to
have a good basis plan.

Chief
Planner and Acting Deputy Chief Executive of Urban Redevelopment Authority of Singapore
(URA) Ms Hwang Yu-Ning was quoted to state that the URA is working towards
having a more complete 3D map of the underground spaces and infrastructure
here.

According
to URA, the Master
Plan
is the statutory land use plan which guides Singapore's development in
the medium term over the next 10 to 15 years. It is reviewed every five years
and translates the broad long-term strategies of the Concept Plan into detailed
plans to guide the development of land and property.

Detailing
the permissible land use and density for development, the Master Plan has
evolved from being a plan which simply reflected preceding land use amendments
to one which focuses on planning ahead for future developments.

To
use limited space more efficiently, land-scarce Singapore is exploring some potential
uses of the subterranean space to free up surface land for other uses. Some of
the underground developments include:

(1)   
Bus
interchange

The new
Bidadari housing estate will house the city-state’s first underground air-conditioned
bus interchange. Scheduled to be completed by 2019, the underground bus interchange
will sit below a carpark and a garden.

(2)   
Underground
transportation network and pedestrian links

To free
up surface space and reduce pollution, part of the road and rail networks will
be developed underground, especially those that cut through dense built-up
areas.

Underground
pedestrian links allows easier connection between buildings, transport nodes
and high-traffic areas. Pedestrians can enjoy the sheltered and safe underground
links to cross busy roads, thereby improving connectivity for commuters and pedestrians
alike.

The
URA is offering an incentive scheme to co-fund the construction of a more extensive
underground pedestrian network in parts of Orchard Road and the Central
Business District.

(3)   
Common
Service Tunnel

The
Common Service Tunnel will be located in Marina Bay. It will house multiple
utilities including waste disposal and air-conditioning pipes. Other than saving
space, it also helps to save maintenance cost and minimise maintenance disruptions
on the roads, as underground pipes are less prone to external wear and tear. Similar
underground facilities will be found in the Punggol Digital District.

(4)   
Underground
oil storage facility

The
Jurong Rock Caverns under Jurong Island is designated for petrochemical storage.
In Phase 1, its 5 caverns are as high as 9 storeys, saving approximately 60
hectares of surface land.

(5)   
Reservoirs

Singapore
currently has 17 reservoirs which occupy about 3,700 hectares, about 5% of the
country’s total land area. The national water agency PUB is currently looking into
the idea of storing water can in underground reservoirs to free up surface land
for other developments.

The
idea of development a plan for Singapore’ subterranean development was first
raised by then Minister of National Development Mr Khaw Boon Wan in his blog
post published in September 2013.

In his
blog
post
, Mr Khaw Boon Wan wrote that Singapore has “possibilities of creating
underground transport hubs, pedestrian links, cycling lanes, utility plants,
storage and research facilities, industrial uses, shopping areas and other
public spaces.”

Despite
underground developments being more expensive than the cheaper alternative of
using surface land is available, “Singapore can try to push the boundary of
usage – to experiment, to learn and to evolve practical innovative solutions –
so as to prepare for the future”, he wrote back in 2013.

Since
then, Singapore has been exploring the potentials of underground developments. In
2015
, the Ministry of Law has made legislative changes to the State Lands
(Amendment) Bill and the Land Acquisition (Amendment) Bill to facilitate the
Government’s long-term planning for the use and development of underground
space.

On
one hand, Amendments to the State Lands Act provides greater clarity on the
current extent of underground ownership. Surface landowners own the underground
space up to 30 metres under the Singapore Height Datum 1, unless otherwise specified
in the State title. The amendments will not affect how landowners currently use
and develop underground space, and landowners will continue to own all the
space they need. Generally, basements of developments in Singapore extend to
about 15 metres underground.

On the other hand, Amendments to the Land
Acquisition Act facilitates public projects which require only a specific
stratum of space. It provides the Government with the flexibility to acquire
only a specific stratum of space that is needed, for example, a pocket of
underground space, instead of having to acquire the entire column of land,
including the surface land and airspace, when developing public projects.

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