Singapore

HDB residents ask ‘are you going to stamp out creativity?’

Residents upset by recent town council interventions

Marketing manager Louisa Tan, 33, was taken aback last month when she found three of her father's grape and passion fruit plants outside their Housing Board flat chopped to small stumps.

A neighbour living in their Serangoon estate had complained that the plants' leaves were going into his home, prompting warnings from the Aljunied-Hougang Town Council (AHTC).

The town council first asked Ms Tan's father to remove the plants on April 23. She said her father trimmed the plants, and in mid-May, asked for an additional month to clear them.

But she said they did not receive a definitive response thereafter, and the plants were cut without notice on May 31.

Her account is one of a few incidents in recent months that have raised the question of whether the authorities should intervene when it comes to objects in common spaces in Housing Board estates.

In Pasir Ris, a flat owner removed more than 30 potted plants from a common corridor last month after complaints that they were overcrowding it.

Meanwhile, a Tampines resident in April had to dismantle a koi tank he built on the four-step staircase leading to his flat.

In response to queries, the HDB said town councils are responsible for managing, maintaining and improving the common areas in its estates under the Town Councils Act.

"Town councils have some flexibility to manage these spaces for smaller movable objects like shoe racks on the guiding principles that the common area is not obstructed and safety is not compromised. There should also be no potential disamenities," the HDB said.

HDB will step in only in cases where permanent structures are set up, its spokesman added, such as with the case of the koi tank in Tampines.

Nee Soon Town Council chairman Louis Ng said that in handling a dispute, the town council takes into account factors such as neighbourly relations, religious feelings and the degree of obstruction.

Dr Teo Ho Pin, coordinating chairman of the People's Action Party town councils, said common areas are used for the common good by residents and it is therefore difficult to allow such areas for private usage.

But affected residents have defended their prized possessions as an expression of their creativity, and called for more flexibility in handling such cases.

Ms Tan noted that there were various other examples of home-grown plants flourishing in common spaces.

She said: "For people like us, who are passionate about growing stuff, are you going to stamp out creativity?"

The home owners who set up the tank outside the flat had also raised a similar point.

The wife of the Tampines tank owner, who wanted to be known only as Mrs Tan, said: "It is only natural to make use of the space... it will be a hospital if everybody keeps everything to their home. There will be no soul in the neighbourhood."

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