Singapore

Sungei Road flea market to close in July

Permit holders to be offered option of operating at selected hawker centres at subsidised rates

Eight decades of history at Sungei Road flea market will come to an end this July.

In a multi-agency statement yesterday, the Government said the hawking zone's last day of operation will be July 10 to make way for future residential developments.

The Straits Times understands that roads in the area could be re-aligned.

The statement was issued by the National Environment Agency (NEA), Ministry of National Development, Ministry of Social and Family Development, Workforce Singapore, National Heritage Board (NHB) and Singapore Police Force.

It noted that the 31 rag-and-bone men from the site were not included in the Government's street hawker resettlement programme to purpose-built markets and hawker centres in the 1970s and 1980s "because of their chosen trade".

They were given permits and allowed to continue at Sungei Road. Only 11 permit holders still operate there today.

The NEA will offer them the option of operating at lock-up stalls at selected hawker centres at subsidised rental rates.

Meanwhile, vendors who are registered with the police under the Secondhand Goods Dealers Act will need to provide a new business address if they wish to continue to ply their secondhand goods trade elsewhere.

The authorities said that Social Service Offices will facilitate financial assistance and Workforce Singapore will provide employment services under existing schemes to eligible vendors who may require such help.

They added that while the site has had a long history and holds special memories for many Singaporeans, "over time, the nature of the site has changed, as reflected in both the profile of vendors and buyers, and type of goods sold".

Previous articles have reported that "opportunistic traders" are attracted to the site, also known as Jalan Besar market, because of its rent-free and city location. The authorities have had to conduct checks on the sale of prohibited goods regularly.

The Government said that such street trades should be allowed to continue only in designated venues such as trade fairs and flea markets, rather than on a permanent basis.

We hope we will be able to keep this... way of displaying our wares alive.
Mr Koh Ah Koon, president of the Association for the Recycling of Second Hand Goods

It noted that the NHB has conducted research and documentation on the market and its vendors to preserve memories of the site.

Mr Koh Ah Koon, 76, the president of the Association for the Recycling of Second Hand Goods, which represents about 70 of about 200 stalls at the market, said he is disappointed by the news.

He told ST that the closure of the site could push some peddlers back to the ways of the past, when they squatted illegally. He added that his association had proposed four alternative sites but these had been rejected by the authorities.

He said: "At least 80 per cent of us are elderly folk in our 60s, 70s and 80s who depend on our stalls for income. We hope we will be able to keep this traditional trade and way of displaying our wares alive."

Singapore Heritage Society president Chua Ai Lin said that it is a pity that alternative solutions were not found.

FACET OF LIFE

She said the market is a good example of a functioning community and economic system and a facet of Singapore's rich and diverse urban life.

Dr Chua said: "This is the only free hawking zone in Singapore. We will be losing the sense of an organically formed flea market. A whole community will be dispersed and can no longer congregate as second-hand sellers."

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