The Clementi Forest will remain classified for residential use, though there are no immediate plans to develop it, said National Development Minister Desmond Lee in Parliament on Monday (4 January).
He was responding to a question by Workers’ Party (WP) MP Dennis Tan who asked if there will be a review of the site.
Mr Lee responded, “The site commonly referred to as ‘Clementi Forest’ has been zoned ‘Residential (Subject to Detailed Planning)’ 23 years ago, since the Master Plan 1998, and safeguarded for residential use.”
“There is no immediate need to develop the site for housing. We will, however, retain the zoning of the site, while giving our future generations the option of deciding whether to use it for housing, if the need arises.”
Last year, the Clementi Forest became a point of discussion alongside other nature parks and forested areas, as petitions started cropping up calling for the conservation of these green areas on the island.
Singapore Democratic Party’s (SDP) Chee Soon Juan made several Facebook posts highlighted the redevelopment plans of the Bukit Batok Hillside Park, sharing one of these petitions and calling for the government to reconsider its plans.
In October 2020, a netizen shared drone footage of Clementi Forest, which caught the eye of the public and led a petition calling for the authorities to conserve the area which was earmarked for residential development. The petition, Protect Clementi Forest from Urbanisation, has garnered over 13,000 signatures since it started in later October.
Mr Lee, in his reply in parliament, said: “In land-scarce and densely populated Singapore, we will continue to have to balance the needs of development and conservation.”
“As part of our long-term planning process, we set aside land early to meet the aspirations of future generations.”
“In doing so, we endeavour to balance the demands and trade-offs across a variety of land use needs, including that of housing, green spaces, infrastructure and workplaces.”
He went on to then highlight that authorities have reviewed its plans to retain greens paces around the country where possible, which has led to about 7,800 ha of land safeguarded for nature reserves, parks, park connectors and other green spaces.
These include the Mandai Mangroves and Mudflats being maintained as a nature park for its ecological value despite the fact that it was initially slated to be developed for factory use.
He added that some nature reserves and parks were not always untouched habitats. He cited Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve and the upcoming Khatib Bongsu Nature Parks, both of which used to be prawn farming areas.
He clarified that areas like the Clementi Forest were abandoned before being acquired by the government. Over time, they became green spaces.
“After weighing the alternatives and trade-offs, there will be areas that we cannot avoid developing,” said Mr Lee.
“Nonetheless, for these sites, possible environmental impacts will still be carefully managed, and natural elements will be integrated within developments where possible.”
The Minister added that the government, in collaboration with the public, will continue to regularly review its plans in order to support the changing needs and aspirations of the nation.
For now, however, Mr Lee said he expects demand for Housing and Development Board (HDB) flats to remain high as more people aspire to own their own homes. Though he also acknowledged that there could be changes in the future as to how industrial and office spaces are planned.