Speech by Minister Desmond Lee at the Launch of the Long-Term Plan Review Public Exhibition

Jun 6, 2022


A very good morning, and a warm welcome to our launch of the Long-Term Plan Review Exhibition.

Let me first thank the over 15,000 people who have contributed your views and ideas over the past year, and I know many of you are here with us today, though not all.

This exhibition features our long-term strategies and plans for the next 50 years and beyond. Allow me to spend a little bit of time to share some thoughts on the importance of long-term planning, as well as a few highlights of the exhibition.

Enjoying the fruit of our long-term plans

50 years ago, about two in every three Singaporeans lived in shophouses or squatter settlements, mainly around the city centre. They travelled on foot or trishaws, and sometimes buses. Punggol was a farmland, Jurong Island was a cluster of unconnected smaller islands, and our international airport was at Paya Lebar.

Now within a few decades, our city Singapore has transformed. More than 80% of our people live in public housing, with community facilities and amenities within walking distance. We have six MRT lines and two more to come, connecting many parts our island. And Punggol today is home to 176,000 people, with a beautiful waterway park that draws visitors from all over Singapore. While Jurong Island is a leading energy and chemicals cluster, with a cavern that houses the first underground oil storage facility in Southeast Asia. We also have a world-class airport and aviation hub at Changi, and a next-generation port coming up at Tuas – which is expected to be the world’s largest fully automated container terminal when completed.

These changes did not happen by chance. They are the product of bold long-term planning. For example, moving the airport to Changi was a strategy outlined in the first Concept Plan in 1971 – just a few years after we gained our independence.

So, what do our people want Singapore to be like, 50 years from now? And when we talk about that time frame, we are really thinking about our children, and our grandchildren.

A Distinctive and Endearing Home

Throughout our engagements, many participants expressed their wish for our future city to be distinctive and at the same time endearing, one that its inhabitants love and are familiar with. So even though we look forward to progress, we also are sentimental and want to find our way around, be familiar with our surroundings, and have those familiar things that we’ve grown up to love.

We are therefore introducing a new concept, and we call it Identity Corridors. In these corridors, we will use thoughtful urban design to preserve and enhance the unique character of these spaces, while also improving the pedestrian and cycling experience.

We have identified five new Identity Corridors. First, the Rail Corridor. This will be a 24km ‘Green Spine’ for recreation and nature, but also lots of heritage and history, located along the former railway to Malaysia. Second, Southern Ridges and our Coast, which will be a beautiful 10km coastal promenade stretching from Marina Bay to Keppel Harbour. Third, the Inner Ring, this is a route encircling the city centre. Originally completed in 1932, it now cuts through diverse neighbourhoods and nodes, stretching from Zion Road through to Balestier and Lavender. Fourth, the Thomson-Kallang corridor – intertwining green and blue corridors beginning in Woodlands, running along the Kallang River and stretching to the Thomson area and beyond. And finally, the Historic East, a charming network of nodes and neighbourhoods like Joo Chiat and Geylang Serai, each with its unique character and rich history, and not to mention, wonderful food as well.

We look forward to hearing your suggestions and feedback on these Identity Corridors, and it is a concept that we will continue to evolve and grow, with time and experience.

A City in Nature
Another constant theme across our many engagements is the challenge of balancing development to meet our people’s needs, with our strong desire to retain and enhance our green and blue spaces. As I said before, in a city-state, all these challenges are magnified as compared to much larger countries, and we must make this a special city, a green city that is surrounded by beautiful waterways.

To strike this balance, we adopt a science-based approach towards stewarding our natural capital. We seek to conserve our most biodiverse areas, enhance ecological connectivity, and integrate greenery sensitively with developments. In fact, in tandem with the Long-Term Plan Review, NParks conducted an island-wide Ecological Profiling Exercise (EPE), helping us better understand the ecological profile of our green and blue spaces.

The latest example of this approach put into practice is the new Khatib Nature Corridor. This nature corridor will strengthen the ecological connectivity between the Central Catchment Nature Reserve – which is the green gem in the heart of our city, and Khatib Bongsu Nature Park, when it is completed. At the southern end, there are forested areas containing a variety of native flora and fauna. And of course, the former Seletar Institute, a heritage landmark, is also in the area. And just next to these sites is Springleaf MRT station, along with other amenities that can support residents and future residential developments.

In view of these considerations, we are going to take an ecologically sensitive approach towards masterplanning for the Springleaf area. Adopting this new approach that we take. Informed by the EPE findings, we will retain significant biodiversity-sensitive areas. We are working with ecologists and landscape architects to calibrate our designs and phase developments, in order to maintain ecological resilience and minimise habitat loss. To ensure the eventual Springleaf Masterplan reflects the views of key stakeholders, and aspirations of Singaporeans both now and in the future, we have also sought inputs from industry experts, academics, nature and heritage groups, and more.

Besides Khatib Nature Corridor, we are also studying the feasibility of three other ecological corridors around Lim Chu Kang, Kranji and Seletar. Another corridor could also be identified at the site of Paya Lebar Airbase, once it is relocated.

We believe this approach will help Singapore continue to be a City in Nature – a home where both people and nature can thrive, side by side.

Creating enough Space for our Dreams

Apart from these aspirations, many participants also keenly discussed how Singapore’s small size was a pressing constraint – was, is, and will continue to be.

To help address and overcome this, or because of that, we are employing a range of strategies to maximise the potential of our land.

One strategy is to go underground, to conserve our surface land. Take the Jurong Rock Caverns and Underground Ammunition Facility for example. These two underground cavern facilities collectively freed up around 360 ha of surface land for other purposes. We will continue to find ways to mitigate cost and technical barriers to locate transport infrastructure and major utility facilities and lines underground where feasible. We will also explore building more caverns for storage, specialised utility infrastructure or perhaps even to house automated industrial facilities below ground.

Another strategy is to either reclaim or redevelop large tracts of land. Within the exhibition, you will see examples of what we call our Future Development Areas. For instance, we are consolidating our port at Tuas to make way for the Greater Southern Waterfront, and also potentially reclaiming land in the southeast for coastal protection and residential use.

One example is the relocation of Paya Lebar Airbase from the 2030s onwards. We have been partnering the Singapore Institute of Architects (SIA) and the Singapore Institute of Planners (SIP), to gather ideas from the public and re-imagine the potential for the district. For the SIP and SIA members here with us today, thank you for partnering with us to create this future together. Some of the early concepts include anchoring the area's identity on the heritage of the airbase. Others also suggested designing workplaces and towns from scratch to be optimised for remote working and future industries.

These Future Development Areas are major moves which will take significant investment, careful planning and decades of hard work to realise. But we are making these plans and these moves now, so that we can create more space – not just for our dreams today, but also for the dreams of our future generations.


Let me conclude.

As you browse the exhibition, I hope you will share the belief that our long-term plans can secure a brighter future for Singapore, and for generations not yet born, even in the face of increasing uncertainty.

Even though this exhibition marks the conclusion of our Long-Term Plan Review engagements, the conversation doesn’t end here – far from it. Our plans are continually being updated, and so we welcome your feedback and ideas. In fact, URA will rove this exhibition all across our heartlands to different places, so please invite your friends and family, and residents, to visit it too, and to give us their views and feedback.

I hope you will continue to walk alongside us, as we explore future possibilities for Singapore. So, on that note, let’s see the exhibition and I wish you all a very good morning. Thank you.