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Singapore’s resilience in the face of the pandemic

How adaptable and resilient is the Master Plan 2019 set forth by the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA)? investigates. 

Singapore’s resilience in the face of the pandemic

Singapore skyline. Photo by Darren Soh.

In the Master Plan 2019,  the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) laid out broad strategies to rejuvenate the city centre, including plans to develop key gateways and growth centres across the island, to redistribute travel demand and bring jobs closer to homes. While it continues to pursue these strategies and plan for a liveable city, the URA is also studying the impact of the pandemic on our urban development plans, to see if adjustments and fine-tuning of specific plans are required. The question at hand: how adaptable and resilient is the Master Plan 2019? 

In response to queries from, the URA shared that like many other cities, it is studying possible changes in activity patterns across various sectors due to COVID-19.

One key change is the widespread uptake of flexible work arrangements such as telecommuting, which has affected commuting, retail consumption and lifestyle patterns. “With more people working from home, there is potential for us to strengthen the convenience and accessibility of amenities within our neighbourhoods. The development of our gateways will help spread out demand and bring jobs even closer to our homes. It also sharpens the need for the CBD to have more mixed uses with more live-in population,” says Chief Planner and Deputy Chief Executive Officer Hwang Yu Ning.

To this end, the CBD Incentive Scheme in the Master Plan 2019 which aims to transform the CBD into more vibrant mixed-use neighbourhoods instead of being a mono-use office-centric district, seems poised to accommodate such changing trends. The URA has received several proposals since the introduction of these schemes and are continuing to engage and work with developers who are interested to create multi-experiential places for the city centre.  

Related: Why the current crisis could be a defining moment for building a more resilient and sustainable future

The Master Plan 2019 focuses on planning for more inclusive, sustainable and green neighbourhoods with community spaces and amenities becoming even more pertinent given the current emphasis on health and wellness. Already in the pipeline is the development of another 1,000ha of parks and park connector networks. The goal is for over 90 per cent of households to be within a 10-minute walk of a park in future.

When the pandemic hit, major convention venues, disused apartments and school buildings were repurposed as temporary care facilities for recovering COVID-19 patients and foreign workers. Hwang highlights a key lesson, “This pandemic has shown us the importance of providing for buffers in our urban fabric to enable rapid responses to crises, such as the flexibility to convert existing buildings or rapidly scale up or down capacity in critical infrastructure such as healthcare. Long-term planning and thinking through possible issues ahead help us to anticipate and respond to changing needs. Our plans cannot be static and need to be continuously reviewed.” 

Certainly, more considerations and questions may come up along the way – how would public amenities need to evolve and would the staging of certain existing plans need to be re-prioritised. For now, the current master plan seems to provide a firm foundation from which adjustments can be made.

Photo courtesy of Urban Redevelopment Authority

Related: Dense, Green and Blue. Is Singapore Ready to be a ‘City in Nature’?

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