The Ministry of National Development (MND) announced yesterday that it has signed a mutual termination agreement with Eternal Pure Land Pte Ltd (EPL) on the land bid at Fernvale Link and the site would be restored to its original plan of a Chinese Temple.
Since February this year, Life Corporation Limited, has been in discussions with the Singapore Government regarding the proposed development of a 5-storey Chinese Temple Centre with integrated mechanized columbarium at Fernvale Link, Singapore by its affiliated Singapore company, EPL.
MND wrote in its press release that the Government’s intent has always been for the Fernvale Link site to be awarded to a religious organisation or its affiliate for the development of a Chinese Temple, EPL’s 2014 bid was not in line with the Government’s plan for the site.
As EPL understood that its bid was not congruous with the planning intent for a place of worship (PW) site and has agreed to terminate the awarded contract by mutual consent.
Under the Mutual Termination Agreement, Life Corporation Limited will receive a full refund of S$5,200,988.00 through EPL from the government as well as a refund of all related government and regulatory fees and expenses paid for the lease of the Fernvale land.
There is no other separate payment to EPL, though one of the terms in the agreement is to release of a small plot of land for the pilot project of Life Corporate Services Pte Ltd (LCS), a company affiliated with EPL. The pilot project is said to involve the development of an automated columbarium system.
The site will be on land zoned for cemetery use and priced at market value based on columbarium use as determined by the Chief Valuer.
The Company’s chairman Mr Kong Kam Yu said he was pleased that a mutually acceptable agreement was able to be reached with the Singapore Government and the professional manner in which discussions were held.
Mr Kong noted that now this issue had been resolved, the Company could continue with its plans to develop Singapore’s first fully automated columbarium facility in Singapore.
MND noted that the award of the Fernvale Link PW site to EPL in July 2014 was the first time a PW site had been awarded to a company that is not affiliated to a religious organisation. This was also mentioned by Mr Khaw Boon Wan in parliament earlier this year when he said that the authorities had “assumed” that no for-profit companies would take part in temple tenders.
The place of worship site at Fernvale Link will be re-opening for tender for its original plan of a Chinese Temple.
TOC approached one of the residents at Fernvale Lea and asked for her comment on the turn of event. She said, “We were all 50 50 confusion (on) what will happen and we were endlessly calling up HDB, writing to the MPs on facebook, letter, going down in person to show our concern that we want the government to make the rightful decision for all of us. Though it was a painful wait but definitely worth while waiting! Thank u to Minister Khaw!”
On 4 January 2015, over 400 future residents of Fernvale Lea and residents of Fernvale link turned up for dialogue session called by Dr Lam Pin in, MP of Seng Kang West SMC after concerns from the residents came up to him about the planned Chinese temple and columbarium by EPL at Fernvale Link.
Many of the Fernvale Lea’s future residents were alarmed to know from news that their estate or soon-to-be-completed homes are to be situated next to a Chinese temple, which would house a columbarium within its premises.
Dr Lam had said to the residents that URA guidelines did not restrict the type of company that can develop a religious institution. He also said that it is understood from the URA that it has been done before and shared that the Chinese temple to be build is not a full cremation centre as with places such as Guang Ming Shan Temple at Sim Ming Avenue.
Some residents said that they felt cheated by Housing Development Board (HDB) stating that there was no mention of a columbarium in the sales brochure from HDB and asked for an alternative to have a full refund to the purchased flat or to be offered an alternative flat which is ready to be moved in.
Dr Lam explained to the residents that they should have known that there was a Chinese temple to be built in the area and that the fine prints on the brochure had already indicated that the facilities may include other ancillary uses such as columbarium which are allowed under URA’s prevailing Development Control guidelines.
HDB subsequently replied to residents that no full refunds would be given to flat owners if they were to back out or to allow a direct exchange of flat.