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Community spaces for all: Desmond Lee

The National Development Ministry hosted a focus group discussion on Saturday which centered on Singapore's public spaces such as void decks, parks and community gardens and how to make them more vibrant.

SINGAPORE: The government on its own cannot be the final decision maker for the use of spaces within the community, but will have to work closely with residents and other stakeholders.

Minister of State for National Development Desmond Lee said this at a focus group discussion on Saturday.

The focus group was attended by some 40 people, including members from non-government organisations, grassroots leaders and representatives from other interest groups. 

The discussion is part of the review of the Sustainable Singapore Blueprint, which sets out a framework for the next phase of the nation's development.

Parks and scenic spots allow Singaporeans to reconnect with nature, but the lack of amenities such as toilets and drinking water spots along the way may discourage some from fully utilising the space.

So some participants suggested opening food and beverage outlets run by non-government organisations, which in turn employ residents in the area.

One of the other issues that repeatedly cropped up was the under-usage of spaces such as those under fly-overs as well as void decks, and participants pointed out that tweaks in design, for example, could result in such spaces becoming a place of greater interaction in the community.

Some said the rows of fixed benches and chairs under void decks can be swapped for mobile furniture to create a more dynamic space.

Dr Chong Keng Hua, assistant professor of architecture and sustainable design at the Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD), said the space could be "a very adaptive environment that is more vibrant".

"So how can we make our place more secure and more vibrant for different groups of community at the same space? I think that's something we can look at in the future," he added.

Many agreed that the key to all these ideas is a government that is willing to be consultative from the start -- being more flexible in the design and use of spaces, and operating with a "light-touch".

Mr Desmond Lee said the government over the years has become more consultative and work with different interest groups in co-creating spaces.

He said: "At the very start, the government will take all these ideas back and we will look at how we can, on our own, facilitate that ground-up process.

"Perhaps we look at our rules, we look at the way we do things, we look at the trade-offs that we are so used to looking at, and seeing where we can allow latitude."

Mr Lee said it is also about working more closely with people who want to use community spaces, while ensuring they remain inclusive to all. 

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