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Singapore

Security, crowd control measures needed for inconsiderate HDB sky garden visitors: Joan Pereira

SINGAPORE: Inconsiderate visitors of sky gardens at Housing and Development Board blocks have caused nuisance to residents, Member of Parliament Joan Pereira said on Tuesday (Nov 8) while calling for more measures to ensure security and crowd control.

Many government agencies and even the police have been involved to try to minimise the inconvenience but to no avail, Ms Pereira (PAP-Tanjong Pagar) told the House.

During an adjournment motion she tabled on building cohesive communities through the responsible use of common spaces, Ms Pereira said that such spaces are open to the public for everyone to enjoy and spend time with their loved ones in.

“Unfortunately, not all users of these painstakingly built sky gardens take care of these spaces nor consider the wellbeing of residents who live in the blocks where the gardens are located,” Ms Pereira said.

“Unlike beaches and public parks, the sky gardens are literally built onto the residents’ blocks, where inconsiderate and irresponsible usage have a direct impact on the people living there.”

While she did not specify in her speech which estates she was referring to, she told CNA that she was talking about SkyVille@Dawson, which is near to Queenstown MRT station.

Ms Pereira said in Parliament that the troubles of residents there are “especially pronounced” during weekends, public holidays and eves of festive seasons.

She added that even though residents are aware that these sky gardens are open to the public, they are “extremely inconvenienced" by the chaos, noise and the rubbish that the crowds would bring.

“There were occasions when the wait time for lifts is very long because many non-residents are using the lifts to visit the sky gardens, and the carpark lots are also taken up,” she said.

Residents also have to cope with dirty lifts, overflowing rubbish bins, littering, illegal smoking and loud partying in common areas, while cleaners have to deal with cigarette butts and alcohol bottles left by visitors, Ms Pereira noted.

“On weekends, visitors go to these gardens late at night too and their noise also disturb residents trying to sleep.”

The rooftop garden at SkyVille@Dawson. (Photo: Nadia Jansen Hassan)

PATROL VOLUNTEERS 'EXHAUSTED'

The MP said that for the past two years, her volunteers have been patrolling the sky gardens after 10pm to remind visitors to leave so that residents get their rest.

“They are exhausted,” she added. “Expecting them to patrol these gardens daily is not only very time-consuming but unsustainable.

“The issues are no longer happening on a daily basis with the reopening of borders and lifting of restrictions on the gathering of people, but such problems are still observed during the weekends and on festive occasions.”

Ms Pereira revealed that she and her team have tried multiple measures to curb these troubles over the last few years with the help of HDB, the town council, residents’ committees, National Environment Agency (NEA) and other government authorities.

In contrast, she said that the situation at Pinnacle@Duxton, which has another popular sky garden, is “much more orderly”.

Visitors have to register and pay a S$6 fee to access the 50th-storey rooftop via a turnstile gantry, and visitor numbers are limited to 200 a day. The rooftop was closed to non-residents during the earlier days of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I earnestly appeal for similar preventive measures to ensure the orderly management of public access to all other HDB sky gardens all over Singapore,” Ms Pereira said.

“Residents are not against public access. They just want measures to enable them to live normally and peacefully, which most HDB residents do everywhere. The welfare of these residents matters.

“The current system is not allowing this and we have to implement measures to ensure security and crowd control to reduce disamenities.”

HDB TO STUDY NEW SKY GARDEN DESIGNS

In response, Senior Minister of State for National Development Sim Ann said that HDB will continue working with her and government agencies to monitor the situation and take action.

HDB will also study new ways to better design sky gardens in the future to “pre-empt disamenities” while "keeping them open and inclusive”, Ms Sim added.

She told MPs that from a policy perspective, HDB cannot treat sky gardens as exclusive enclosed spaces.

Pinnacle@Duxton was an exception due to various factors such as its central location, its status as the tallest HDB block in Singapore, and the novelty of its panoramic city views, Ms Sim said.

Nevertheless, she acknowledged that sky gardens, which have been built in newer estates over the past decade, are different from ground-level HDB parks because visitors have to share the common lifts with residents in order to access them.

Ms Sim added: "What we are able to do is to assist the town council and the local grassroots in signalling to visitors that sky gardens, while open in nature, are residential amenities and not domestic tourist attractions.

"Visitors should not forget that residents live very near the sky gardens or behave in an inconsiderate and irresponsible manner, such as making loud noises, smoking or littering. We do not condone this."

Ms Sim said that in 2016, a task force — comprising HDB, the residents’ committee, Tanjong Pagar Town Council, NEA and the police — was established to manage crowds at sky gardens in SkyVille@Dawson and SkyTerrace@Dawson on the eve of festivities.

After a larger-than-expected turnout at Skyville@Dawson on New Year’s Eve 2020, the task force stepped up its patrols, especially on Friday and Saturday nights, Ms Sim said.

This was on top of increased police patrols and NEA’s patrols targeted at smoking and littering offences.

From September to November 2021, the authorities issued advisories or notices of composition to members of the public in relation to COVID-19 safe distancing measures.

Ms Sim said these moves were effective, with crowds reducing from about 80 people at its peak to 30 towards the end of November 2021.

HDB’s on-site inspections showed that large gatherings have been uncommon since New Year's Eve 2020, with users generally cleaning up after themselves and behaving in an orderly manner, Ms Sim added.

“Thus far, HDB has not received any recent feedback from residents pertaining to disamenities on sky gardens,” she said.

On New Year’s Eve 2021, the sky gardens at Skyville@Dawson were closed from 10pm. Visitors have not been permitted after 10pm since then too.

Ms Sim added: “Even though the situation on the ground appears to have stabilised, we agree with the need for constant surveillance and vigilance through the use of signages and CCTV cameras to warn visitors and deter errant behaviour.

“Creating a quality living environment requires everyone to play a part. I hope that as a society, we can be considerate and kind to one another, and make our HDB estates an icon of gracious, inclusive and harmonious living.”

Source: CNA/lt(gr)
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