When Sir Stamford Raffles first landed on Singapore some 200 years ago, Punggol, like the rest of the island was a sleepy, rural place where farming and fishing activities abound. One of the oldest settlements, it is there where the infamous 1942 Punggol Beach Massacre occurred. Fast-forward to the 1990s, and Punggol, famed for its seafood restaurants, has become the backwater in modern Singapore.
But, in August 1996, Punggol was awakened from its slumber when then-Prime Minister Goh Chok Toh unveiled plans to develop it into a waterfront town consisting of private and ichiteck public housings, alongside water recreational facilities. The smooth development of the project, Punggol 21, however was stalled by the outbreak of the Asian financial crisis in 1997. In addition, in 2003, when financial woes beset the construction industry, the rolling out of new HDB flats in the area was delayed after construction firms went under. Indeed, some 560 flat buyers had to look for alternative housing after their flats could not be completed on schedule.
Coordination problems also plagued the development of Punggol. The Punggol LRT which was completed in 2004, has its western loop, consisting of seven stations, remains closed till today because of a low population density in its vicinity – the upshot of the slow housing development there.
Despite the hiccup in development, the Government continues to plough on in its development plans. In 2007, PM Lee Hsien Loong, launched the Punggol 21-Plus project to build more housings and facilities there. The centrepiece was the 4.2km-long Punggol Waterway, known as My Waterway at Punggol, which he inaugurated in October 2011. The $225- million beautiful waterway, which features a host of waterfront activities, prompted some to proclaim it as the ‘Venice of Punggol’. Indeed, it has been the recipient of two international awards this year: the “Grand Prize for Excellence in Environmental Engineering” and the “Global Superior Achievement Award”, presented by the American Academy of Environmental Engineers (AAEE) and the International Water Association, respectively. This makes Singapore the first Asian country to clinch these awards.
A year later, in October 2012, the Housing and Development Board (HDB) embarked on the second phase of development for Punggol. National Development Minister Khaw Boon Wan announced plans to create seven distinctive housing districts (Waterway East, Waterway West, Northshore District, Matilda District, Punggol Point District, Crescent District, and Canal District) there and to increase the number of apartments from the current 26,000 to 100,000. Developments for Waterway East and Waterway West are currently under way, while that for Northshore District and Matilda District will start within the next five years. Plans are also made to increase the educational, commercial and communities facilities there. Current green spaces are to be enhanced, with new ones to be added. (“HDB Embarks on Second Phase of Development for Punggol Town”).
Notwithstanding the comprehensive plans, Punggol still has some way to go before it can be a well-established waterfront town to rival Pasir Ris and Bedok. Both Pasir Ris and Bedok are self-contained towns where residents can not only call the place home, but also enjoy ample employment opportunities and recreational activities there (Lee). For Punggol, however, there is a clear imbalance between employment opportunities and residents population. In the next five years, the number of completed private homes are expected to soar from the current 114 units to 6,618; while HDB flats will jump from the present 18,000 to 35,000. But the supply of jobs is not expected to keep pace. Apart from the lack of jobs, Punggol also faces a shortage of retail amenity. Punggol Plaza is the only shopping mall in the area now. But come 2015, Waterway Point, a shopping mall next to Punggol MRT, will be completed.
1. “HDB Embarks on Second Phase of Development for Punggol Town”, Channel NewsAsia 16 October 2012, Print
2. Lee Sze Teck, “Up and Coming vs Established”, The Business Times 27 September 2012, Print
I am a writer for iCompareLoan and PropertyBuyer.com.sg
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