In the past where housing shortage was an issue due to the rapid population growth and urbanization of the country, badly degenerated and overcrowded slums and squatter colonies were a common sight in the city centre. This over population led to serious human and traffic congestion issues which prompted the government to introduce the 1958 master plan to guide the growth of Singapore in order to improve the physical environment of the city and quality of life by redistributing the congregation at the central area into new towns outside of the city centre.
New towns in Singapore are large scale satellite housing developments which are designed to be self-contained (Wong, 2014). The purpose of town centres is to provide residents with basic necessities so that there is no need for them to venture out of town to meet those needs. Necessities would be within walking distance and convenient reach from their homes. These new towns includes public housing, a town centre with shops, sports complexes, a town park, schools, hospitals and other amenities.
There are six sustainable land planning principles that are used to develop Singapore’s new towns. Developing an efficient city by optimising land use and improving the living environment, promoting the use of public transport by intensifying land use around rail stations, decentralising commercial centres to provide more jobs near home and reduce travel and peak hour congestion, providing quality living environment by providing a wide array of facilities and amenities, conserving natural and built heritage and fostering community spirit through public spaces (Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources and Ministry of National Development, 2015).
Hierarchy of New Towns
Singapore’s new towns are designed to be self-containing. Hence, they are planned based on a typical structural model template that aims to include a diverse mix of functions and programmes that are necessary in order to achieve its objective of being a self-containing new town. The new town model template transforms based on residents’ feedbacks and changing lifestyles over the years. Figure 02 below shows the advanced Singapore new town model and how new towns are planned and organized. Within it is a clear Town Centre-Neighbourhood-Precinct hierarchical structure as shown in Figure 03. What constitutes a new town is the proportionate distribution of residential, commercial open spaces, recreational, industrial and institutional land use (Foo, 2001). Figure 04 shows the distribution of land area during the development of the new town. Also, the planning standards based on the land uses and facilities provided vary across the different new towns throughout Singapore as they each have identities that differ from one another.
In the Town Centre-Neighbourhood-Precinct hierarchical structure, each HDB new town consist of a town centre that functions as the core area of activity. This area includes larger commercial facilities and transport network nodes such as train stations and bus interchanges (HDB, 2015).
Within each town centre, there are 5-6 neighbourhoods that are located around it. The strategy to maximize the use of transport infrastructure to plan for a compact city by building more homes and amenities around major transport nodes would mean a decrease in travel distance and improved convenience from homes to public transport and amenities nearby (URA, 2012). Each neighbourhood is then served by a neighbourhood centre which includes shops, stores and other facilities (Fernandez, 2011).
Lastly, each neighbourhood consist of 6-7 precincts that are located around it. Each precinct is connected to each other by pathways and a central focal point in the form of a landscape square consisting of recreational/communal facilities serving cluster of residential units surrounding it (Sun, 2013).
Features of New Towns
There are three main features of new towns in Singapore.
Firstly, mixed land use planning that includes residential, recreational and commercial land use. There is a variation of residential land use that consists of different types of housing estates with a variation of public and private high-rise and low-rise development blocks. In addition, recreational land use is set aside to provide residents with facilities such as sports complex, parks and gardens while commercial land use is set aside for malls, shops, banks, offices, public buildings such as educational institutions. Secondly, accessibility to public transport networks such as trains, buses, bicycles and taxis which provide convenience to residents. And lastly, open spaces and greenery such as gardens and parks which give residents breathing space within the high density areas (Ni and Ang, 2008).
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