Veteran architect Tay Kheng Soon’s criticism letter on Tengah development to Straits Times ignored

Earlier today, Adjunct Professor at the Department of Architect at the National University of Singapore (NUS) Tay Kheng Soon shared on his Facebook Page, a letter that he wrote to Straits Times (ST) which was not published by the publication. The letter is about the renowned architect’s criticism on the Tengah development, which he thinks is “an unnecessary destruction of an important piece of natural forest.”

It appears that Prof Tay shared the post in response to a question by a Facebook user, Tann Chee over how mainstream media is selectively reporting on news and turns down stories that don’t fit their official narrative.

In his post, he mentioned that his letter was not run by the publication because it might make the Housing and Development Board (HDB) and Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) look “silly”. In his letter penned to ST, Tay revealed a few concerns that he has regarding the project.

“Firstly housing is a socio-political thing. How does Tengah fit in? Here are two key issues. One is the protection of asset value of existing flats owned by the old and second is affordability for younger voters. It would seem that Tengah addresses only the young. For the old, protection of their asset value is their greatest concern. Tengah is therefore not for them,” said the architect.

Tay further adds that congestion will be a matter to look at since more foreigners can boost asset value. He also said that grants help young buyers while protecting existing value of the old, and reverse mortgage as well as other financial schemes are necessary. But his biggest concern with this development is that if it is only for the young, will it upset desirable family spatial relations?

Tengah is a development that seeks to urbanise a forest by having a linear forest park that threads through the town. This concept is something that didn’t go too well with Tay.

“In principle, building on brown sites is preferable to building on green sites. My YouTube video ‘Singapore Version 2.0’ shows that land vacated by the port’s move to Tuas can accommodate one million people stretching from Pandan Reservoir on the West to Marina East. Together with the availability of Paya Lebar Airport, there should be no need to build on any precious forest land. Building on MRT sites plus infills within existing developments can add more floor space. Synergy with Cleantech Park does not need a whole new town next to it,” he concluded.

Responding to a commenter’s view that the publication might have reasons not to publish his letter, Prof Tay wrote, “I understand all that. But why is the issue of tengah new town that would destroy the only forest in the west of singapore not a news worthy subject? And is it not true that ST is biased in favour of govt-supportive narratives? Thats the real issue to be fair. Of course you can point out to a few non conforming reportage by ST but a few swallows dont make a summer.”

To support Prof Tay’s point, TOC has in the past also published a number of letters which ST rejected and passed to us, which are critical of the policies or actions taken by Singapore government.