Halt construction of RC Centre at The Peak @ Toa Payoh: SPP

The Peak @ Toa Payoh DBSS (image - www.kingbostrike.com)
The Peak @ Toa Payoh DBSS (image – www.kingbostrike.com)

The Singapore People’s Party (SPP) has issued the following statement calling for the government to halt development on the construction of the RC Centre at the Peak @ Toa Payoh. This is because residents have raised concerns about the construction, with up to 87% of residents not in favour.


The SPP calls on HDB to halt the construction of the RC Centre at the Peak pending an official poll of Peak residents to determine the level of support for the same.

The Peak RC must be prepared to abandon its plan if the poll determines that most Peak residents do not support it.

The Peak @ Toa Payoh is a Housing and Development Board (HDB) development built under the Design, Build and Sell Scheme (DBSS). Completed in 2012, the Peak has 1,203 units and comprises two 42-storey blocks, three 40-storey blocks and one multi-storey carpark.

Recent media reports have brought to light that a high proportion of Peak residents are upset by HDB’s decision to construct a Residents’ Committee Centre (RC Centre) at the void deck of Block 139B at The Peak.

We understand that Peak residents first heard about the decision when they were notified of the same by The Peak Residents’ Committee (The Peak RC) on 17 March 2014. The Peak RC is a Grassroots Organisation established by the People’s Association after completion of The Peak.

Concerned Peak residents went to their Member of Parliament’s (MP) Facebook page to comment and also emailed the Prime Minister’s Office.

Their MP then organised a dialogue session for the concerned Peak residents, but the following Monday, residents saw the construction plans being proceeded with.

Concerned Peak residents then organised a petition from residents of the affected block. The petition stated that the petitioners were not against having an RC Centre in their vicinity, but only its location at the void deck of their block. That petition established that a substantial number of residents in the affected block opposed the construction of the RC Centre under their block.

The petition was presented to the MP at his Meet-the-People Session, However, the MP said that if the petitioners only comprised residents of the affected block, it would be considered unfavourably as a ‘Not In My Backyard’ (NIMBY) case.

Peak residents then proceeded to organise a survey covering all the 1,203 units in the Peak. That survey found that 87 percent of respondents from 635 units did not want a RC Centre to be built at any of their void decks. The residents presented the results of the survey in a petition which further stated that the petitioners were not opposed to converting the Utility Room at their multi-storey car-park to the RC Centre.

On 1 July 2014, the second, more extensive petition was sent to HDB, the People’s Association and their own MP. Their MP then replied the petitioners that he did not ask for a survey of all blocks to be taken and that the petition should have stated “not at Blk 139B” because that was the affected block.

Despite the adverse feedback given by Peak residents to HDB, the People’s Association and their MP, Peak residents were notified by The Peak RC on 22 March 2015 that construction of the proposed RC Centre under Block 139B on the basis of modified plans will commence on 30 March 2015.

The Peak RC further stated that on account of the feedback received, the original plans were modified to reduce the size of the RC Centre under Block 139B by 30% and to convert the Utility Room at the multi-storey carpark as a secondary site for the RC Centre.

SPP’s observations

  1. A decision was made by HDB to allow The People’s Association to construct a RC Centre under Block 139B for The Peak RC.
  1. Ever since the decision was announced on 17 March 2014, concerned Peak residents have made consistent and strenuous efforts to express their grievances and misgivings to HDB, the People’s Association and their MP, but despite the same, it has been decided to proceed with the construction, albeit with modifications.

This situation calls for an examination of the roles and objectives of the parties involved, namely:

  • The MP for Thomson-Toa Payoh ward (where The Peak is located)
  • The Peak RC of the People’s Association
  • HDB

The MP

The MP is elected by the people of a constituency. He is to represent his constituents in and outside Parliament.

The MP for Thomson-Toa Payoh ward is also Adviser to Bishan-Toa Payoh Grassroots Organisations of the People’s Association. The role of Grassroots Advisers is to help the Government to promote, explain and assist in implementing national policies, programmes, schemes and campaigns.

It has been clarified that the roles of MP and Grassroots Adviser are distinct and separate. Grassroots Advisers are appointed by the Government and are accountable and answerable to the Government. For this reason, opposition MPs cannot be appointed as Grassroots Advisers because they do not answer to the ruling party.

So on one hand, as MP, his role is to represent and advocate the interests and wishes of his constituents. On the other hand, as Grassroots Adviser, his role is to help promote, defend and implement Government policies and programmes. Such national policies include the Residents’ Committee scheme of the People’s Association.

The MP’s dual roles mean that Peak residents can look to their MP to advocate their interests only when such interests are aligned with the interests of the People’s Association.

In a case of The Peak, the wishes of the People’s Association goes against the wishes of Peak residents. The MP is thereby caught in a conflict of interests. When interests collide, how would the MP’s appointment as Grassroots Adviser not constrain him from freely championing the wishes of Peak residents? The MP’s dual capacities are in conflict, and hampers his ability to help his constituents.

Residents’ Committees

The Peak RC is among many RCs established and funded by the People’s Association.

According to the website of the People’s Association, the functions of RCs are to:

  • Promote neighbourliness, harmony and cohesiveness amongst residents;
  • Liaise with and make recommendations to government authorities on the needs and aspirations of residents;
  • Disseminate information and gather feedback on government policies and actions from residents; and
  • Promote good citizenship amongst residents.

RCs are meant to be run by residents for residents. Members of The Peak RC include Peak residents.

By insisting to carry out its plan to construct the RC Centre under Block 139B despite residents’ objections, The Peak RC is disrupting the peace, sowing discord, causing anxiety and bringing frustration to and amongst Peak residents. Under such circumstances, proceeding with the construction will defeat the very purposes which The Peak RC is meant to serve.

One cannot escape noticing the irony that The Peak RC, whose existence and access to public funding is justified by its service to the community, is itself causing a disservice to the community.

In fact, that actions by The Peak RC is producing effects contrary to their stated objections, is reason enough for the Peak RC to cancel their construction plan.

It is not too late for The Peak RC to redeem itself.

SPP calls on The Peak RC to request HDB to conduct an official poll of all Peak residents to ascertain their views on the planned construction of the RC Centre under Block 139B, and to halt the construction in the meantime.

The Peak RC must be prepared to abandon its plan if the poll determines that most Peak residents do not support it.

HDB

Legally, The Peak is a 99-year HDB leasehold. Residents are Lessees who have purchased the right to exclusive use of their respective units. HDB is the Lessor and owns and controls all the spaces which are not leased to residents.   Since HDB owns the void deck under Block 139B, HDB has the legal right to do as it deems fit with the space.

However, HDB is not like any other property owner. HDB is the statutory board of the Ministry of National Development responsible for public housing in Singapore.

As a government agency responsible to provide public housing to Singaporeans, SPP believes that HDB has a high calling to be socially accountable for its decisions.

When any free space in a development is converted to a specified use, such conversion is at the expense of residents there. Residents are prejudiced because the amount of space to be enjoyed will be correspondingly reduced.

In such a clearly defined development as is The Peak, it is not surprising that Peak residents feel a strong sense of ownership of the place they call home. That Peak residents regard themselves as stakeholders with vested interests in the well-being of their estate, is a spirit to be respected, if not applauded.

Is it right for HDB to make a decision that would have a direct impact on the daily lives Peak residents without conducting a consultation process with Peak residents?

It is not answer if HDB were to say that by liaising with The Peak RC it is thereby liaising with Peak residents. Members of The Peak RC members are not elected. The Chairman and Vice Chairman of The Peak RC are appointed by the Grassroots Adviser. Peak residents have no say in the composition of the RCs.

Moreover, it is The Peak RC which is seeking to avail the space under Block 139B for its activities despite residents’ objections. Therefore, The Peak RC is conflicted. In view of the conflict of interests, HDB cannot regard The Peak RC as the proper representative of Peak residents; and The Peak RC is in no position to speak on behalf of Peak residents.

SPP calls on HDB to conduct an official poll of all Peak residents to ascertain the level of support by Peak residents for the RC Centre to be built under Block 139B, and to suspend the construction pending the outcome of the poll.

Conducting a reliable poll of all Peak residents would enable HDB to discharge its social obligations to Peak residents.

Mrs Lina Chiam, Non-Constituency Member of Parliament
Chairman of the Singapore People’s Party

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