Some of you may recall previous news reports about some individuals farming without permission on the State land near Clementi Ave 4. You can read my previous Facebook notes on this issuehere and here.
Our grassroots volunteers have been working hard at finding a win-win solution, and I am glad to provide an update here.
Over the past few weeks, the Bukit Timah Citizens’ Consultative Committee (CCC) has been speaking with residents, discussing with government agencies and studying the experience of community gardens elsewhere in Singapore. We have also secured a three-month extension from the Singapore Land Authority (SLA) for the 18 ‘farmers’ who have stepped forward to identify themselves.
After careful consideration, the CCC has drawn up plans for a temporary community garden at the site. It will enable the existing farming group to have a means to continue planting, while also allowing others to take part. The garden will also be integrated with a lighted temporary footpath that will link the staircase outside Blk 305 Clementi Ave 4 to the Ulu Pandan Park Connector, a favourite destination for exercise and recreation amongst our residents.
Our grassroots leaders have discussed the plan with all the 18 ‘farmers’, and we are glad that they have expressed support for it. We have also obtained the support of the Northwest CDC and the Town Council for this project. The CCC is now applying for a temporary occupation licence (TOL) from the SLA. We expect work on the community garden to begin after 19 June, which marks the end of the grace period for clearing the area, and it should be ready for use in about four months’ time.
When the issue broke, we wanted to help the existing ‘farmers’ by giving them a legitimate outlet for their passion for planting. The legal position is clear – whatever the background reason, encroachment on State land is illegal. But as the local grassroots, we also recognised that these are just individuals and families who happen to love planting vegetables and crops. Even though some disamenities had been created, resulting in resident complaints, we knew that they meant no harm.
It is possible for the grassroots to intervene by applying for a TOL for the land, but it has to be for community use, and whatever we do has to make sense as a community project. This means we have to abide by a few principles.
- First, respect health, safety, planning and legal requirements.
- Second, allow fair opportunity for participation by other interested individuals.
- Third, we should try our best to incorporate features that will benefit other residents.
We saw an opportunity for a community win-win, and we went for it. It meant going the extra mile, but our grassroots volunteers were game. I thank our volunteers for working tirelessly on this project, the various statutory boards, including SLA, NEA and NParks, for hearing us out and being supportive. Last but certainly not least, I thank the ‘farmers’ for putting their trust in us and for working with us to make this happen.