Saturday, May 1, 2010

More say S'pore a great place to live

Survey shows rise in satisfaction, sense of belonging

READ blogs and other media and you can get the impression that we are always whining about our lot. Yet, a new survey shows just the opposite - that Singapore is a much-loved home to its people and foreigners with a growing sense of belonging.

In fact the levels of satisfaction are growing, indicating that efforts to remake the place into a more vibrant city are having real effects at ground level.

The latest lifestyle survey by the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA), out yesterday, asked 4,000 people - mostly Singaporeans but also foreigners and permanent residents - about this place they call home.

It was carried out from August last year to March this year.

More than 80per cent of Singaporeans and permanent residents agreed that this is a great place in which to live, work and play.

This is 10per cent up on satisfaction levels in a 2006 survey - a smaller-scale public perception survey, said National Development Minister Mah Bow Tan.

Foreigners are even keener, with more than 85per cent raising their glasses to Singapore.

Mr Mah told the URA Corporate Plan Seminar yesterday that close to 90per cent of respondents said Singapore was their home and where they belonged, up 20 percentage points from the 2006 survey.

'The survey results are showing a positive trend - that Singaporeans love their city more,' said Mr Mah.

The survey data will be used for the ongoing Concept Plan 2011 review, which maps out Singapore's long-term land use strategies and directions.

'With our new hardware in place, we need to look beyond the physical, to search for the 'soul' of our city, and work towards enhancing it,' added Mr Mah.

Soul is not easy to find, however, as DP Architects director Tai Lee Siang told The Straits Times.

'It requires both the hardware and software working in unison - not one after another. While the skyline and architectural environment (here) are becoming exciting, I can't say that there are many spaces that Singaporeans can occupy and call their own.'

As a start, the Government will put more effort into 'making places', or place management, so that key areas of the city can be activated, Mr Mah said.

This is already happening at Marina Bay and will occur at the Singapore River, Orchard Road, the Bras Basah and Bugis precinct, and historic districts.

The URA will soon call a tender for a consultancy to formulate a five-year plan to work with stakeholders to develop the Singapore River precinct.

Mr Mah identified three key ingredients - the three 'Ps' - that are needed to make a place vibrant and distinctive.

The first is planning for land use, a major concern of Singapore residents, as the URA survey revealed.

They fear the physical landscape changes too fast and that Singapore does not keep enough familiar buildings and places.

The URA has increased the number of conserved buildings and structures from 3,000 or so to about 7,000 over the past two decades but conservation is challenging in a land-scarce nation, said Mr Mah.

'For each potential conservation site, there is a tension between the redevelopment and conservation; it's always a very tough call...'

URA chairman Alan Chan said yesterday: 'In our planning function, we ensure that Singapore's physical development is able to support our population and economic growth in a sustainable manner.'

Mr Mah said the URA will start work in Waterloo Street and Queen Street later this year to make it more pedestrian-friendly and install infrastructure to facilitate street events. About $10million will be spent, with the project finished by early 2012.

Singapore will continue to beef up its hardware but shift focus to the softer aspects of its quality of life, said Mr Mah. This is the second 'P' - programmes.

'What breathes life into a place are the programmes that will in turn, bring in the people,' he said.

'But ultimately, what gives a place its soul is the last 'P', which is people.'

Places only truly come alive when the community uses the spaces to interact and bond, said Mr Mah.

Mr Tai added:'The key to creating a soul is ownership. Singaporeans must feel that they can 'own' the urban spaces in Singapore.'

Source: Straits Times, 1 May 2010

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