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Much of Bukit Timah’s old kampung landscape has disappeared over the years as luxury properties sprang up in the area, so news that two of its old buildings have officially been saved has been welcomed.
Yesterday, the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) said it has gazetted the former Bukit Timah Fire Station and the former Railway Station Staff Quarters for conservation.
Conservation expert Ho Weng Hin told The Straits Times that the fire station, built in 1956, was integral in keeping kampung homes – made of combustible materials – safe from widespread blazes.
He said: “An industrial corridor along Upper Bukit Timah Road, where a mix of light industry businesses such as soya sauce factories and car workshops operated, also came under the fire station’s care.”
The station was Singapore’s fourth after the Central Fire Station and suburban stations in Geylang and Alexandra.
A URA spokesman said the conservation helps to capture some of the island’s firefighting history.
She said the building provides a good representation of fire station architecture in Singapore, having been built as part of the post-war expansion of the fire service. It is also a good representation of the Modern style, she added.
Mr Ho noted that the former Railway Station Staff Quarters – a pair of semi-detached fair-faced brick houses – serve as a reminder of Bukit Timah’s once rustic setting.
The colonial authorities had built the quarters for staff as it was challenging to travel to the station for work every day, given that the transport network was still in its infancy, he said.
The conservation gazettes are part of the 2019 masterplan which was formalised yesterday. The masterplan comprises a swathe of development and revitalisation plans across the country.
Plans for the former Bukit Timah Fire Station include a new visitor centre to direct the public to surrounding nature and heritage attractions.
The former Railway Station Staff Quarters and its compound could host a small food and beverage establishment and curated gardens.
The URA spokesman said students from the Singapore University of Technology and Design, led by Associate Professor Yeo Kang Shua, had carried out a research and documentation project on the former quarters and the railway station.
She said their project helped to inform the plans for the area, adding: “Currently, agencies are working to improve access to the area, to allow users of all abilities to enjoy this unique green space.”
Heritage blogger Jerome Lim welcomed the conservation of both buildings, adding that other railway remnants, including signal cabins, are also worth conserving.
The public was allowed to weigh in on the URA’s draft masterplan, which was exhibited at the authority’s Maxwell Road premises from March to June.
This draft reflected stakeholder feedback which helped to refine the URA’s original plans for areas such as the Jurong Lake District, Farrer Park and Holland Plain.
For instance, following community feedback, the URA retained a swimming pool and former boxing gym at Farrer Park fields, where a variety of sports in Singapore flourished from the 1930s to the 1980s.
The URA said yesterday that about 25,000 stakeholders and members of the public visited its draft masterplan exhibition.
More than 110,000 visitors also viewed the draft online, with its social media posts on the proposals reaching around half a million netizens.
OTHER UPCOMING DEVELOPMENTS
The public can look forward to these developments in the near future following the Urban Redevelopment Authority’s formalisation of the 2019 masterplan.
HOMES IN CBD
More homes will be built in the Central Business District (CBD). The Government will give developers a higher gross plot ratio to encourage them to convert ageing offices into hotels and homes. This will apply to the Anson Road, Cecil Street, Shenton Way, Robinson Road and Tanjong Pagar areas.
Areas like Bayshore, Dakota Crescent and Farrer Park will also get more residences.
There are plans to move more utilities underground. Apart from existing caverns such as the Jurong Rock Caverns, an underground storage facility for liquid hydrocarbon that goes more than 100m deep, ongoing studies are underway by statutory boards JTC and PUB to help identify potential cavern spaces for industrial, utility and storage use.
MORE GREEN SPACES
Singaporeans can also look forward to a greener island, with approximately 1,000ha more parks and park connectors.
Eventually, more than 90 per cent of households here will be within a 10-minute walking distance, or 400m, of a park in future, while a million people will live within a kilometre of the Rail Corridor.
The corridor will run through the country, connecting Woodlands Regional Centre, which will feature a new agri-food and innovation park, to future housing in Choa Chu Kang, before running through Queens-town down to the Greater Southern Waterfront, a future mixed-use district of over 2,000ha that will extend from Pasir Panjang to Marina East.
Up north, Lim Chu Kang will be connected to Changi via the coast through the Greater Rustic Coast – a 50km stretch that will link areas of military and industrial heritage, recreation and biodiversity.