5 key takeaways from the URA Long-term Plan Review youth conversation
160 youth participants shared their vision through this dialogue.
The Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) Long-Term Plan Review youth conversation saw 160 youth participants share their thoughts regarding land planning in Singapore.
Held in conjunction with the National Youth Council on Feb 4, participants discussed how to build an inclusive, sustainable, adaptable and resilient, distinctive and endearing Singapore. Some salient points brought up were on culture and heritage preservation, balancing the needs of land use, and sustainable energy sources.
The conversation was joined by Minister of State for Culture, Community and Youth Alvin Tan, Chief Planner of URA Hwang Yu-Ning, NYC INSPIRIT member Sharmishta Sivaramakrishnan and SUTD Architecture and Sustainable Design Associate Professor Chong Keng Hua.
Here are five key takeaways from the session:
1. Polycentric plans are underway, but a vibrant CBD still important
A polycentric strategy is one that sees our economic gateways and job nodes spread throughout the island. This aims to create better distribution of jobs as well as to keep residents closer to their families and homes.
Chief Planner of URA Hwang Yu-Ning shared that developing multiple centres is part of the plan for Singapore. “The good news is that it’s been working quite well. Like Tampines and Changi Business Park. Based on our analysis, half the people working that live in the East,” she said.
However, Ms Hwang believes that there is still a need for a vibrant Central Business District (CBD) in Singapore.
“I think there is still a relevance (for a CBD)…as companies want a presence. The agglomeration effect of the CBD is fantastic. That still creates an attraction for Singapore as a (business) hub,” she added.
Ms Hwang further noted that there are plans to transform the CBD. However, these plans will take time. In the meantime, we will witness the growth of our polycentres.
2. Preservation of cultural and heritage spots while integrating new developments
A question was posed to Minister of State Alvin Tan on how we can preserve our cultural heritage spots while integrating new developments in the area, such as in Little India and Chinatown.
Mr Tan shared that there has been good effort made to preserve shophouses in Chinatown, while also considering newer transport developments in the area. “For many years, when serving the seniors there, one of the challenges was getting from place to place. But now, Maxwell MRT will be opened (in a few months time),” he said.
He added that some of the efforts to integrate our heritage into infrastructure include cultural activities, artwork and art walks.
“Recently in Art Walk, (as part of) Singapore Art Week, we are turning the area (Little India) into places where you can walk and see murals on the buildings. People will know about the area, and not just live, work (and) play in it,” Mr Tan cited as an example.
3. Conserving our nature heritage while creating spaces for recreation
While urban planning is important, we cannot forget about conserving our nature heritage.
Ms Hwang shared that the URA uses an evidence-based approach to determine which are the most important and representative bio-ecological spaces. Some of these spaces would be our central catchment and nature reserves.
“(We must find out) how we can first protect those, to make sure those are intact. And then how do we continue to identify other areas that can buffer and protect these areas,” she said.
Ms Hwang added there is also a need to provide spaces of greenery for Singaporeans to enjoy and for recreation. However she does recognise that there are tensions between different needs at these spaces.
“I heard some conversations about opportunities to set aside more spaces within parks for community farming. But at the same time there are other people who want more space for kicking a ball around or jogging.
“So we are trying to identify all these different needs that Singapore has, and if there are clever ways that we can combine some of these to optimise the (use of) lands,” she shared.
4. Youths should be actively involved in land planning
NYC INSPIRIT member Sharmishta Sivaramakrishnan believes that Singaporean youths must have a sense of agency over land planning.
“This can sometimes feel a bit intimidating, especially when we are talking about land and planning for spaces. (But) I would like to remind everyone that a sense of agency also comes from having a sense of attachment to a place. This isn’t necessarily home, it is a sense of habitat, it’s where you are living and growing.
“We actually have a responsibility to cultivate not only our own sense of agency, but for those around us as well,” she said.
She shared an anecdote of her visit to a cafe in Lavender several years ago. Through conversations with her peers, she learnt of its origins as a hardware store.
“It made me realise that there are neighbourhoods in Singapore that are known for some establishments, but there are actually legacies there that may have been written before me. There’s no way I would know unless I have that kind of (proactiveness),” she stated.
Assoc Prof Chong Kheng Hua also suggested that in the future, there could be a possibility to empower schools and students to help manage spaces near them.
“What if we can empower the schools to manage a radius of 2km around them? And empower all the kids to run these spaces, and see what can (be done) to take care of our ageing issues, health issues, climate change and migrant workers (concerns),” he shared.
5. Long-term planning is essential, with check-ins every 10 years
Long-term plan reviews are one of the ways to involve youths in Singapore’s land planning. While we cannot predict everything that will unfold in 50 years time, Ms Hwang believes that it is important to think about “what ifs” and the cone of possibilities.
“We do this exercise every 10 years so that we can see whether there are any major trends that have shifted. Do we need to rethink things in a different direction? This is to give us enough reaction time,” she said.
Mr Tan further emphasised that the long-term plan review is key in helping us stay on track with our plans for Singapore. “…this is a long-term plan for 50 years, but every 10 years you just look back and take stock and see what changes,” he shared.
He urges Singaporeans to be imaginative and innovative with our ideas, in order for the future generations to enjoy their living spaces.
“One thing is for us to continue to think big and to be bold in what we decide. It is important for us as we build these castles in the air, to know that some castles will land well and some will remain in the air. But we must continue to build these castles.”