“Prestigious” homes – but at what cost?

Andrew Loh

Have you heard of Watercove Ville? You probably have not. Watercove Ville is a new housing development by Bukit Sembawang Estates Limited (BSEL). BSEL was in the rubber plantations business before it turned to property development. The company is reported to be the largest house builder in Singapore now. Its developments are very popular, going by the sales figures. According to its website, it has “fully sold” Luxus Hill, Verdure, Parc Mondrian and Mimosa Terrace. The website also promises to launch at least another four new developments, including Watercove Ville.

What is it about Watercove Ville that makes it special and different from the rest? The site for the development is located beside Sembawang Park in the northern part of Singapore – right by the beach, actually. It is beachfront living for those who can afford it, and work it seems has already started. “Another prestigious freehold development…” a signboard at the site declares.

Signboard at the proposed site for Watercove Ville

The plan is for 80 freehold, “exclusive strata houses with basement carpark, swimming pool and clubhouse facilities” to be built there. “Daily conveniences, good food and country clubs,” describes the company’s website, “are just a short drive away.”

All is well – until you consider the implications of having such exclusive housing in an area which is known for its serenity and its wonderful spread of natural environment, together with its historical past. According to the NParks website, “Sembawang Park is a tranquil park with distinct blue dice design, situated in the north of Singapore facing [the] Johore straits.” The park is “one of the few remaining natural beaches of Singapore.” Its historical links to colonial times include the Beaulieu House, the Sembawang jetty and the remains of the 1920s Seletar Pier. “The Sembawang Shipyard to the west of the park was a British Naval Base from 1938 to 1968,” says NParks. “The park is also surrounded by other places of historical interest like the Admiralty House, Kampong Wak Hassan, Masjid Petempatan Melayu Sembawang and Sembawang memorial.”

Sembawang Park

Indeed, Sembawang Park is one of the last vestiges of our past which is accessible to everyone. Its lush greenery and natural tranquility attract those who seek solace and refuge from the relentless humdrum of city life. Now, this is being threatened by the development of beachfront housing. Work on the site has not gone full-scale yet but undoubtedly will soon. As it is, the nearby Sembawang Shipyard already disturbs the quiet of the park with its machinery and engines humming 24-hours everyday. The new Watercove Ville is located at the eastern part of the area. Sembawang Park, it seems, will soon be sandwiched between two sources of noise – from the shipyard in the west and from construction work at the Watercove site in the east.

Those who wish to get away from the hustle and bustle of the rat race will soon have one less sanctuary to turn to.

In our quest to provide dream homes and housing, let us be mindful that we should consider the needs of the wider population, and not just the few who can afford to pay for such “luxurious” homes. This is especially so in land-scarce Singapore where natural environment is disappearing fast under the assault of “housing development”. It makes one wonder how bad the situation will further deteriorate as we head towards a 6.5 million people population.

I truly dread the day when Watercove Ville is finally completed. It will mean that even our limited space of silence, solitude and tranquility can be sold to the highest bidder, or are only for those who can pay for it.

According to this report, “More than half the buyers of some recent luxury property projects have been foreigners, helping to drive property prices in the city-state to their highest level in six years.”

Will Watercove Ville also see the same fate in that foreigners will end up buying most of the units? But that would be beside the point. I would rather we left these rustic, natural environment as they are – and not be seduced by “luxury homes” which come at the expense of sanctuaries which provide much needed respite from the hectic life we lead in this city.

For now, 80 “prestigious” houses threaten to deprive Singaporeans of the sanctuary that is Sembawang Park.

Is Watercove Ville the first of many “prestigious” housing developments which will spring up along that coast in the north?


Some pictures and a slideshow of Sembawang Park:

Where Watercove Ville will be sited

Workers can be seen at the site

The site from another view

A closer look

Sembawang Shipyard

Sembawang Shipyard

Sembawang Shipyard, view from inside the park

Slideshow of Sembawang Park:

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