SINGAPORE — The current Singapore Turf Club (STC) site will be holistically developed to meet the increasing demand for housing, including public housing as well as leisure and recreation as part of the larger overall plan for the North Region, said Indranee Rajah, Second Minister for Finance and for National Development.
In Parliament sitting on Monday (3 Jul), Ms Indranee said Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) would consider how the site can be developed to create a distinct identity for the precinct, taking into account its unique characteristics and to build on the green character of North region and the site’s proximity to major parts and nature areas.
Examples include the Sungai Buloh Wetlands Reserve, Mandai Mangrove and Mudflats, Lim Chu Kang Agri-Food Cluster, and the Mandai Wildlife Reserve attractions.
“Work on the revised land use plan, as well as the infrastructure design and planning for the site will take place over the next three to four years before the government takes over the site in 2027, so that land preparation and redevelopment can commence thereafter.”
She added that the government is studying the potential uses for the site, including the number of dwelling units that can be injected.
“Details of the redevelopment plan will be made known once the relevant studies and assessments are completed, ” she added.
Indranee was replying to several Parliamentary Questions (PQ) filed by Members of Parliament regarding the government’s plan on redevelopment plans for the STC, and arrangements for its employees after the announcement of its closure by March 2027 was announced last month.
While acknowledging that the decision to close STC was not an easy decision, Ms Indranee Rajah said that given Singapore’s small size and constraints, the Singapore government continuely review land use plans to meet present and future needs.
“At the same time, local house racing has also experienced declining spectatorship over the years. In developing long-term land use strategies and plans, the government had actively engaged the public to understand their needs and aspirations.”
“These engagements have strongly affirmed that Singapore needs more land for housing as well as diversity of spaces for leisure and recreation to provide a quality living environment for Singaporeans.”
“With the demand for more land for housing and the declining spectatorship for local horse racing, the government made the difficult decision to redevelop the Singapore Turf Club to better meet our future needs. ”
350 STC employees and 450 other workers employed by the trainers affected
As the handover of the land and assets of STC is scheduled to be completed by March 2027, Ms Indranee believes that it will give trainers and owners sufficient time to make necessary arrangements.
“This also allows them to have several more races, culminating in the Singapore Gold Cup in October 2024. ”
Regarding assistance given to workers affected by the cessation of horse racing, Ms Indranee said there are two different groups of workers affected, including 350 STC employees and 450 other workers employed by the trainers.
“The STC employees will continue to be employed for at least the next 15 months up till October 2024, with some staying until closure in 2027. ”
“Upon cessation of the employment, they will receive retrenchment packages in line with MOM guidelines. ”
Ms Indranee added that they will receive job placement assistance, career guidance, skills training and counselling so that they can find new jobs and to UC has also stepped in to offer support.
For those workers employed by trainers, STC will also lean forward to work with their employers, the trainers, to provide support to these workers and ease their transition.
“STC will also be extending employment, facilitation, skills training, and career counselling.”
Mr Patrick Tay, Member of Parliament for Pioneer SMC, raised concerns about extending the 15-month retrenchment period and providing additional assistance for workers with special needs.
In response, Ms Indranee explained that the 15-month period aligns with the expected last race in October 2024.
“If we take back the land in 2027, we need to allow time for horse exportation as well, and horse exportation doesn’t happen just so easily. You need time for quarantine, You need time for vaccination and transportation, and need time to have them rehomed.”
“Working backwards, it was determined that October next year, should be the last race, which means that between now and October, these employees, all of them with the STC or for the trainers, will actually be able to continue employment.”
She further noted that the horses exportation is expected to be done by 2026, so there’s still a period between 2024 and 2026 when there will be a tale of.
STC, as well as the trainers, will have to work with their employees to bring the employment to an end.
“For STC, as I mentioned earlier, some will have to continue being employed right up to 2027 because the administration’s staff, whoever’s doing payroll payments and so on, they’ll still need to be around to do the winding down.”
It is an offence under the Animals and Birds Act to abandon racehorses
For those approximately 700 race horses, Ms Indranee said they would have to be rehomed once the races cease. STC has already rolled out support for racehorse owners and trainers for horse maintenance as well as horse exportation and placement.
“STC is discussing with owners and trainers what additional support they may need to rehome their horses and will do. It’s best to meet reasonable requests. ”
However, Ms Indranee warned that owners have the responsibility to look after their horses, and It would be an offence under the Animals and Birds Act to abandon their horses or fail to care appropriately for them.
Meanwhile, the STC closure does not affect our National equestrian team’s training, which is located at Jalan Marshall. Ms Indranee said Sports Singapore regularly engages with the Equestrian Federation of Singapore, which oversees our national team’s training.
Gerald Giam, Member of Parliament for Aljunied GRC, further questioned the Minister regarding the use of retired racehorses for other equestrian sports and questioned whether the closing of STC will lead to higher costs for buying and importing horses for equestrian sports in the future.
In response, Ms Indranee clarified that these are race horses and the majority of them will continue racing; hence exportation would be one of the main strategies to deal with these horses.
“Some interest has been expressed in Malaysia in taking some of the race horses from the Singapore Turf Club when it closes. Australia is another destination, although they take a smaller number.”
“So I think the primary strategy for these racehorses would actually be exportation to allow them to continue to race if their owners so choose. But obviously, this is a conversation that we’re having with the owners to see what they would like to do with the horses. ”
Ms Indranee also assured that the STC and government would lean forward if there are employees who need special needs or face particular hardship.
Workers’ Party MP raised concerns about stakeholder consultation following the decision to close the STC
During a parliamentary session, Jamus Lim, Member of Parliament for Sengkang GRC from the Workers’ Party, raised concerns about stakeholder consultation following the decision to close the STC. He highlighted that news reports indicated many stakeholders expressed surprise and dismay at the decision.
He asked if a formal stakeholder consultation process would be conducted for future plans regarding the site and if public consultation would become a standard practice for major government decisions.
In response, Ms Indranee confirmed that immediate engagement with trainers and horse owners began right after the announcement. She acknowledged that the news came as a surprise to many, and it will take time for everyone, including employees, to adjust to the decision.
“It’s an ongoing conversation because, as you can imagine, when the announcement was first made, many were, shall we say, it came out of the blue, it’s taking some time to adjust to the announcement and obviously, with the employees as well.”
Regarding the surrounding area, Ms Indranee mentioned that there is a limited residential presence nearby. However, it is part of HDB’s normal practice to consult residents about their preferences for their town or area.
Regarding public consultation, Ms Indranee stated that the government had been actively conducting such consultations. Acts and bills, and a majority of other matters, undergo public consultation.
“When we have the remaking of heartlands exercise, for example, that’s put out for public engagement consultation ideas and suggestions when we do place making the long term plan review was one such. ”
She acknowledged that certain matters, particularly those sensitive to market conditions, may not require public consultation, such as land acquisition decisions.
“So I think that there are categories, Where it is sensitive, meaning market sensitive, and you would not normally go and say can I have public consultation on whether I want to do land acquisition. ”
However, she added that the decision-making process for land acquisition could be influenced by previous consultations on topics like congestion and public preferences.
“So the short answer is we will do as much public consultation as we can. ”
MOF and MND announce the closure of STC by March 2027
The Singapore Turf Club, the city’s lone horse racing club founded in 1842, has announced its closure by March 2027.
This decision follows a joint statement from the Ministry of Finance (MOF) and Ministry of National Development (MND), pointing towards a substantial decline in local horse racing spectatorship and an opportunity to repurpose the land to meet Singapore’s future land use needs.
Spectatorship at the Club has seen a steady decline over the past decade, plummeting from an average of 11,000 spectators per race day in 2010 to about 6,000 in 2019.
After the racecourse’s reopening in 2022 following COVID-19-related closures, the average attendance fell further to about 2,600 per race day, according to Ms Indranee.