The Singapore government has issued a new policy paper in light of the economic issues that Singapore may face due to low fertility rates, and along with the increase in life expectancy rate, which will result in an ageing and declining workforce population. The Population White Paper (2013) was thus issued by the government to plan for a sustainable economy by expanding population size to a projected 6. 9 million people by 2030, mainly via the increase of foreigners. This paper soon led to a huge public outcry and presented discourse on issues of overcrowding especially on lack of infrastructure, increase in housing prices due to increases in demand and loss of identity for Singapore. In order to explain the reasons for 6. 9 million projection, the Singapore government has thus created a new planning policy paper to ease the public outcry. The Land Use Plan 2030 sought to assure the public that their quality of living will not be jeopardized when the population reaches 6. 9 million people. The land use plan included strategies on expanding the size of our land and increasing intensity of land use to meet the demands of the projected population. By 2030, approximately 60 percent of Singapore will be zoned for residential purposes as well as an increase in commercial nodes and green spaces for Singaporeans. However, despite the extensive collaborative efforts with many public agencies for the Land Use Plan 2030, there are still some issues that the plan has failed to address. This essay will thus seek to analyse the strengths and weaknesses of the Land Use Plan 2030 with regards to high density living issues as well as provide recommendations and improvements to the plan. The essay will also propose and provide feedbacks about the public participation level in the Land Use Plan 2030 based on “Our Singapore Conversations” and with reference to the Seoul Plan 2030 public participation process.
The Land Use Plan 2030 has failed to mention about the issues of climate change and how the planning efforts will seek to mitigate issues, in particular, the Urban Heat Island (UHI) effect arising from high density and further urbanisation. This section will further elaborate the comfort of living and working if the effects of UHI are not mitigated. Besides global warming, additional heat is released especially in urbanized cities due to the UHI effect. This could be due to various factors such as the morphologies and the anthropogenic heat generated from human, commercial and residential buildings, industrial buildings and vehicles. Furthermore, many parts of our land have replaced plantations with concrete, and all these has led to increase in heat.
The Land Use Plan 2030 has explained the methods of increasing housing stock, such as building new residential towns like Bidadari, in order to meet the demand from the expanding population size. Compared with older residential towns such as Chai Chee, the existing new housing blocks are densely packed together due to a reduced setback between residential buildings. Together with a supply pipeline of 700, 000 dwelling units by 2030, Singapore would be a more densely populated city than before. Research studies have shown the correlation between higher density living and UHI effect. In fact, the density of an area is a determining factor of how intense the level of UHI effect will be for that area. The direction of increasing density through constructing more high-rise buildings would result in blocking of wind flow and serves as a medium to absorb heat due to a larger surface area. Therefore, it is important to consider how this increment in density will affect the comfort of living in terms of the temperature. The comfort of pedestrian walkways and cycling paths are also very important, especially since Singapore envisions herself to be a car-lite city in future. The Land Use Plan 2030 has shown how Singapore wish to improve its urban mobility through its extensive infrastructure. However, it failed to show how these walkways and cycling paths would provide comfort to encourage people to use the different modes of transportation. With the current skyscrapers, especially in the Central Business District area, as well as the tropical climate of Singapore, the heat generated does not encourage walking nor cycling. With population density increasing, it also means that the heat emitted would be harder to dissipate added together with skyscrapers enclosing the area. At the pedestrian level, vehicles become the primary heat production tool. Compared to Hong Kong, Singapore has more car ownership, and this would mean that Singaporean pedestrians are more exposed to heat emission from cars. Hence, it is an issue that the Land Use Plan 2030 has failed to address.
The Land Use Plan 2030 should place more focus in enhancing the quality of life of the citizens, instead of emphasizing the economic factors. Due to the inevitable increase in temperature, resulted from global warming, it is important that Singapore comes up with resilient environmental plans and infrastructures. Urban greenery can bring about beneﬁts to the microclimate through processes of shading and evapotranspiration.
Extensive efforts towards urban greenery can enhance cooling effects through providing shade and the process of evapotranspiration. To mitigate UHI effect, there should be more vertical greening and rooftop gardens. Although there have been plans in providing more rooftop gardens, it is only applicable for new towns and private developments. Vertical greening is also only encouraged for private developments through various schemes. With more than 80% of the residents living in HDB, the Land Use Plan should have addressed the improvements for the older towns by introducing rooftop gardens and vertical greening for existing HDB blocks and multi-storey car parks. More surface car parks should be replaced by multi-storey car parks which can then transform these surface car parks into pocket parks within precincts. Field studies have shown the considerable cooling effects and improvements to its surrounding by having vertical greenery, rooftop gardens and more pocket parks. With plants built around buildings, it can minimize energy consumption of building by approximately 20% and having pocket parks also reduce the surrounding temperature as well. These urban greeneries can also help to create precinct identity, making HDB blocks less monotonous. Other possible ways include changing the morphology and land use. It is found that during the day, industrial and commercial lands emit more heat, and in the night, residential and commercial lands emit more heat in. Therefore, appropriate land use planning, for instance the provision of a good mix of land uses, is crucial to ensure that the heat is not concentrated at one area.
Despite the weaknesses of the Land Use Plan 2030 as mentioned, there are commendable efforts by the government with the planning of underutilized land such as transport paths. Besides enhancing mobility, the Land Use Plan showed that the Singapore government often plan its transport nodes and paths to be multi-functional. For instance, park connectors not only serve as the green vein of Singapore, it is also a transportation path. These park connectors also function as recreational and educational areas for biodiversity. The multi-function integrated transport hubs also help to build a strong network for first- and last-mile connectivity, and making use of the footfall, retail is also placed at these hubs to increase economic vitality. However, more could be done to the MRT viaducts, such as using the huge ground space for flea markets.
The Land Use Plan 2030 was a detailed description built on from Concept Plan 2011 as the Concept Plan was prepared with population parameter of 6. 5 to 6. 9 million. There was a reassessment of the latest Concept Plan from 2011 to 2013 which led to the release of Land Use Plan 2030. Public consultation has been made for the Concept Plan 2011 via exhibitions, online feedbacks and two focus group discussions. The Land Use Plan 2030 thus also consisted of the feedbacks from the focus groups and participations by the public. Although the focus groups consisted of different groups of people, there were no clear information on their discussion process and the way they derive the issues, other than the few comments made by the representatives of the focus groups. The additional participation before the newly released paper was a face-to-face interview conducted by Our Singapore Conversation (OSC) to reach out to a group of demographically representative Singaporean, to understand their opinions for Singapore 2030. The survey focused on their key values and preferences towards key planning issues such as housing and job security. Despite the pressing issue of ageing population, there was still unhappiness with the plans from Population White Paper. Through the results of surveys done by OSC, the Land Use Plan 2030 tackled concerns such as lack of infrastructure support, stiffer competition for education and jobs as well as diminishing of identity. The paper, rolled out shortly after Population White Paper, illustrated details and specific plans for the outlook of Singapore. The paper also promises that the Singaporeans’ well-being will be prioritized. While the intention of public consultation was to ensure that the plans complement and meet the needs of the changing lifestyles and visions of Singaporeans to provide sustainable growth, it should also be a place to communicate plans and educate the public on urban planning. With reference to the Seoul Plan 2030, experts ensure that they do not maneuver the way citizens think during their public consultations. Instead, they guide the citizens with their statistical knowledge and research to allow them to make informed decisions. Citizens were also ensured to have real-time information and feedbacks through use of social media to keep them actively updated throughout the planning stages. Citizens’ knowledge is especially important in ensuring fruitful discussion and to minimize the possibility of strong rejection towards the government decision-making and development processes.
Although the platforms serve as a social bonding area, it also allows for more conflicts. However, the conflicting interests between the participants did not hinder the process as the participants were tasked to discuss and come to a common conclusion with the help of experts to provide factual assistance. As such, this whole process has allowed citizens to feel empowered in planning for their city and induced a stronger sense of belonging. Nevertheless, there are pitfalls to the participation for Seoul Plan 2030 as well. The engagement of citizens that are not trained in the planning industry, their lack of far-sightedness has resulted in a long-term plan that mostly fulfils only short-term objectives. Furthermore, as Seoul creates new communication channels with the public, especially with the use of social media, it might not reach certain age groups. It is no doubt that public participation processes involve both monetary and non-monetary costs due to its long process. However, it is difficult to quantify and compare the quality of public participation and its long term benefits by the monetary value of the amount spent to conduct such consultations. A good public participation should offset the costs such as administrative cost, staffs’ salary and time by producing high quality public participation such as the provision of useful feedbacks from the ground and the increase in social bonding and trust between the citizens and the government.
There are efforts by the government after the outcry to increase participation such as “PubliCity” by URA as well as for the Draft Master Plan 2013. Based on the Arnstein Ladder of Participation (1969), Singapore participation level is only at the second tier. To encourage the involvement and improve quality of consultation for future, Singapore can learn from Seoul Metropolitan Government and implement their ways here. After conducting the surveys by OSC, experts should gather the participants into various focus groups and engage in a discussion with them. As such, experts can then explain the rationale for such population projections and facilitate the discussion without guiding their thought-processes. More detailed district-level local plans within the overall urban planning framework makes for better opportunities for community involvement and social innovation process as the citizens are more aware of their own neighbourhood. With well-informed decisions by the participants, it would allow ideas that are more relevant to be used by the planning committee and citizens would also feel more empowered. The government would not have a foolproof plan for every citizen, hence public participation platforms should classify stakeholders through the issues established. This would also reduce the cost to call for more reviews as the quality would be enhanced already. It is difficult to reduce cost and at the same time ensure quality participation, but public participation is necessary for the welfare of the country. 5.
In conclusion, the essay has provided both pros and cons of the Land Use Plan 2030 as well as recommendations for improvements in the participation process. Urban planning should not be restricted only to the physical realm. The quality of life of the citizens are equally as important and to improve their lives would require a profound understanding of their needs and concerns. As Singapore is well-developed, with full urbanization and strong infrastructures, the government should focus its land use plan on social and environmental issues such as climate change. It is commendable that the plans ensure full use of scarce land by having multi-functions. However, Singapore government should place more efforts in engaging citizens and various stakeholders to play critical roles in coming up with broad range of ideas to the planning processes, and to instill a sense of empowerment in order to create a stronger sense of belonging to the country. For instance, issues like climate change requires citizen participation so that they will feel more encouraged to play their part in keeping the Earth green. Currently, Singaporeans do not feel encouraged to be involved in such processes as they felt their voices are left unheard. Hence, Singaporeans lack the initiative to be involved in planning processes and find it difficult to understand the government’s rationale for certain policies. It will be a difficult process to encourage participation, and it requires the building of trust between the citizens and its government. Citizens in Seoul initially also criticized their government’s policies, however, with efforts to increase understanding by organising discussions and workshops, participants started to accept the policies and would begin recommending alternative options to improve the policies. The communication breakdown and the lack of understanding between Singaporeans and the government were the key reasons for the public outcry towards the projected high density and the government should take this as a lesson and focus on bridging the communication gap for future developments and policies.
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