Bukit Brown group questions legality of land use masterplan

Straits Times 05 Jul 2014
by Yeo Sam Jo

AN ONLINE post has sparked controversy after it claimed that the Government might have contravened the law when it amended and gazetted the land use masterplan this year.

In a Facebook post on Thursday, conservation group SOS Bukit Brown said the authorities "(appear) to have ignored legal requirements governing amendments to the masterplan".

The group said that no public inquiries or hearings were held before the 2014 masterplan was gazetted on June 6, even though there was written public feedback on the addition of a road through Bukit Brown Cemetery.

Citing rules within the Planning Act, the group said that hearings and public inquiries "must be held in response to public feedback regarding amendments to the masterplan, provided that the feedback is not ruled frivolous".

It added that the written feedback received replies from the Ministry of National Development (MND) and was not ruled frivolous.

"Without the legally stipulated hearings and public inquiries, gazetting the 2014 masterplan raises concerns over the legality of the policy and whether government agencies should be implementing policies that fall short of their full legal obligations," the group added.

However, spokesman for SOS Bukit Brown Woon Tien Wei told The Straits Times that the group acknowledges that there may be different interpretations of the law and seeks clarification from MND and the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA).

"This concerns us as people who care about Singapore, development, heritage, and nature, as seen in our efforts to protect Bukit Brown," he said.

Nominated MP Eugene Tan has submitted a parliamentary question on this issue, which will be addressed in Parliament next week. He requested that MND provide a summary of the feedback and objections received on last year's draft masterplan.

Associate Professor Tan also asked whether any hearings or public inquiries were held prior to the gazetting, and if not, whether there are any plans to hold them.

"We shouldn't jump the gun and assume that the law was not complied with. Hence, I thought it would be good to hear out MND and URA first," he said.

"There seems to be a lot of accusations thrown at the authorities, which is premature. Perhaps engagement could have been better conducted," he added.

"I hope my question provides a platform for more information and clarification."

MND and URA did not respond to queries at press time.