Speech by Minister Lawrence Wong at the Draft Master Plan 2019 Exhibition Launch

Mar 27, 2019

I am very happy to join all of you this morning for the launch of the Draft Master Plan 2019 exhibition. 

We do this once every five years, and it is a big effort for URA because there are so many people involved in planning for the next 10 to 15 years. This creates a lot of excitement to imagine together what our future Singapore will be like.

This year, we have also recently updated the Singapore City Gallery and our Islandwide model for urban planning.

Cities everywhere have their own processes for urban planning. But very few have been as effective as Singapore in planning for the long-term and translating these plans into reality. This is a key competitive advantage for Singapore.

The Master Plan process is not just about having more buildings and infrastructure. It is really an exercise to reimagine and remake our city – to think about new versions of urban living that will be more fulfilling and sustainable; to think of new ways to stay relevant to the world. Ultimately, that is how we can give ourselves the best chance of success in an uncertain and volatile world.

What we are exhibiting today is called the Draft Master Plan 2019. But URA has, in fact, been engaging the public on these plans since 2017. We have done it through a series of exhibitions, focus groups and dialogues with Singaporeans to get feedback on proposals. This exhibition has taken in the feedback, and pulls together the proposals across the whole of Singapore.

I will briefly share on three key strategies that are in the Draft Master Plan.

Develop our Major Gateways 

First, we are continuing to develop major gateways across Singapore. If you look at the map of Singapore today, the most developed part of our island is in the South, where the city centre is. We have plans to develop major gateways across the Eastern, Western and Northern parts of Singapore, to broaden our development. The gateways will capitalise on our air, land and sea connections to external markets. 

These gateways will support new growth industries and provide more jobs closer to home for Singaporeans. For example, we have an agri-tech hub in the North; we have digital clusters for the IT and cyber-security sector in Punggol Digital District; we have different clusters in the East and West.

At the same time, while we develop these gateways, we cannot neglect our city centre. Even though it is the most developed part of Singapore today, we have to continue to rejuvenate our city centre to keep it competitive and vibrant.

Our CBD is largely mono-use today, meaning to say it is dominated largely by office developments. It is busy during the weekdays, but in the night time and weekends, we do not really see a lot of activity in the city centre. We want to introduce a broader mix of uses so that the CBD is not only a place to work, but also a vibrant place to live and play.

To achieve this, URA will introduce a new CBD Incentive Scheme. This will apply to Anson Road, Cecil Street, Shenton Way, Robinson Road and Tanjong Pagar areas within the CBD – the core part of the CBD.

The CBD Incentive Scheme will offer an increase in gross plot ratio for the conversion of existing office developments to hotel and residential use. It is not simply a matter of increasing plot ratio, but encouraging different uses. We hope this incentive will encourage property owners with older buildings in the CBD to consider rejuvenating their buildings.

Beyond the CBD, we will also want to encourage private developers and building owners to consider rejuvenating their existing buildings, especially if they are older.

Previously, there was an incentive scheme for buildings along Orchard Road. But there is no reason why the incentive should be limited to one stretch of road.

We will introduce a new Strategic Development Incentive Scheme as well. The intent is to encourage commercial building owners to collaborate and comprehensively redevelop adjacent properties. What we are looking for is not a one building development. We are looking at a comprehensive redevelopment; bold, innovative proposals that will transform the street or even the entire precinct.

The Strategic Development Incentive Scheme goes beyond the CBD – it will be open potentially to anywhere in Singapore, as long as it is bold, innovative, and can transform not just one building, but potentially a whole area along the street or precinct. To encourage such proposals, we will offer a mix of incentives, including an increase in gross plot ratio and flexibility on other development controls. URA will share more details today on both the CBD Incentive Scheme and the Strategic Development Incentive Scheme. 

Enhance our Green Endearing Home

Second, as we develop, we will continue to enhance our greenery, biodiversity and heritage. From time to time, we hear concerns that Singapore is developing too rapidly, that we are losing greenery and heritage spaces.  

We understand and are very mindful of these concerns. Our planners work very hard to strike that fine balance. On the one hand, we cannot afford to stand still. We have to continue to change and reinvent our city, because the competition is real, and we have to adapt and move forward in order to stay relevant. But on the other hand, Singapore is not just a place of work – it is also our home, and we want to be a home that is beautiful and green, with familiar spaces that we can connect and identify with.

We are continuing to make a conscious and deliberate plan and effort to protect and enhance our green spaces. We have always been doing this; it has always been an integral part of planning in Singapore and it continues to be the case in this year’s Draft Master Plan review.

Today, the greenery plan that we have is a deliberate and systematic effort to protect our natural heritage and enhance the resilience of our natural ecosystem. To illustrate, today there are four nature reserves and 20 nature areas in Singapore. They are rich in biodiversity, span across the Central Catchment Area, and home to large variety of animal and plant species. 

To enhance the ecological resilience of the nature reserves, we have developed a network of nature parks around the Bukit Timah and Central Catchment Nature Reserves. It is done in a very deliberate manner, because these nature parks serve as green buffers to reduce pressures and stresses on our nature reserves. By doing this, we protect the sensitive core areas within the reserves, and maintain and protect them as a safe haven and refuge for the animals and plants that are there. 

Taken together, these green spaces – nature reserves, nature areas, parks and park connectors – currently account for about 7800 ha of land. As part of the Master Plan, over the next 10 to 15 years, we are increasing this by about 1000 ha. We are not reducing greenery; on the contrary, we are increasing greenery even as we develop.

We will also actively programme our green spaces and provide opportunities for Singaporeans to connect with nature. We aim to have over 400 km of park connectors within the next 15 years. 

The major green recreational corridors will include the Coast to Coast Trail running from East to West, the Rail Corridor, which will run from North to South and will be largely ready in two years’ time – from Woodlands to Tanjong Pagar. It will be 24km long, so you can run up and down, and run more than a marathon. If you are more up to it, you can do the Round Island Route, when it is ready in a few years’ time. It is even longer and will go across the whole of Singapore.

These are plans that will ensure that Singapore continues to be a City in a Garden; a city in nature, even as we continue to develop. 

Besides nature and greenery, we are also mindful of our built heritage. This gives us a sense of identity and adds to the character of our city. The built heritage is also an important part of our urban planning efforts.

Every time we have a new development, we consider carefully if there’s anything of historical significance or heritage value. If so, then we can retain these heritage buildings, and repurpose them for creative new uses.  I will share two examples of how we are doing this in the Master Plan.

One is the former Bukit Timah Fire Station along the Rail Corridor. We will conserve the fire station and use it as a base for visitors to explore the nature and heritage attractions around the area.

Further north, we will also conserve the former Station Master’s Quarters opposite Bukit Timah Railway Station. We can repurpose these buildings for new uses. 

Another example is Farrer Park. This has been the site that has seen major sporting events and achievements. We have been engaging the sporting fraternity and residents around the area to incorporate the rich sporting heritage of the area into our development plans. I am happy to share that we will be retaining the Farrer Park swimming pool and former boxing gym building as part of our redevelopment plans. We will incorporate these older buildings together with other new sporting amenities, to complement future developments in the area.

When we say we are not done building Singapore, it is not simply the case about adding new buildings. Our natural and built heritage are important elements of our urban development plans.  This is how Singapore can be a modern innovative city with lush green spaces and deeper historical roots.

Build capacity and resilience for the future 

Our third strategy is to build capacity and resilience in our city. We have to adapt to the realities of climate change, particularly rising global temperatures and rising sea levels. In the Master Plan, we have put in place various plans, for example, to tackle the Urban Heat Island Effect – where we are seeing rising temperatures around the island because of developments, we are doing this through more green spaces and using modelling tools in the planning of new towns. To mitigate flood risks, we are improving our drainage infrastructure and, where possible, integrating them with other developments to optimise land use.

In the longer term, we are putting in place infrastructure to protect our coastal areas against rising sea levels. This goes beyond the Master Plan, because the investments that we have to put in place are long-term in nature, over the next 20 to 30 years, but they will be necessary to protect ourselves against rising sea levels. 

Another way in which we can build capacity for the longer term is to optimise our land and to ensure we have sufficient space for the future. We are doing this in two major areas – the site of the current Paya Lebar Air Base, and the Greater Southern Waterfront.

The site of the Paya Lebar Air Base is larger than the size of Bishan or Ang Mo Kio town, and the land will start to be developed only after 2030.

The Greater Southern Waterfront is more than 2,000 ha, and about six times the size of Marina Bay today, if you consider the entire stretch. The plans for the Greater Southern Waterfront will unfold over the next 20 years and beyond, as the container ports move out.

We will start first with the Keppel club site when the site reverts back to the State, and the Pasir Panjang Power District. The Keppel club site will be used for residential, and the Pasir Panjang Power District will be used for lifestyle and other purposes.

Later this year, URA will be engaging the public on ideas for these sites. These are sites for longer term development, and we would like to gather ideas from the public, even as we start to think about these sites, so we can shape the developments together.

Finally, in order to build capacity for the future, for the first time, in this year’s Master Plan, we are unveiling an underground space plan – focused on three areas, namely Marina Bay, Punggol Digital District and Jurong Innovation District.

We hope the publication of these underground plans will be useful to developers and building owners in these three areas. It will help coordinate planning of infrastructure, storage and utilities, so that together with building owners and developments, we can see what more can be done below ground, so that precious surface land can be freed up for more important uses. We are starting with three areas, but the plans are not limited to that. In future, the Underground Space Plan will be expanded to include more areas as well.


In conclusion, the Master Plan is an exercise for us to plan ahead and develop for the future. It is not an academic exercise or a theoretical paper exercise. This is a real plan where we come together to build for the future. 

Over the past decades, Singapore has transformed from mudflats to metropolis. Now, we are planning ahead for our next phase of transformation, to remake our city and build a better Singapore for the next generation. 

This has to be a collective endeavour. I encourage all Singaporeans to visit the exhibition, see the plans for themselves, and continue to give us feedback so that we can fine-tune and improve the plans together. That is how we can build our future city and home, and ensure a better Singapore for the future.

Thank you very much. Please enjoy the exhibition.