atans1

Archive for the ‘Environment’ Category

Urban planning: a constrasting tale of UK cities & S’pore

In Environment, Infrastructure on 12/08/2014 at 4:21 am

As I’m still in a celebratory mood about past achievements, let’s remember a UK prophet and his prophecy of urban planning

This appeared in the Economists’s obituary on Sir Peter Hall, a leading UK urban planner:

At first, Mr Hall was an enthusiastic supporter of that top-down, rational approach. One of his early books, “London 2000”, published in 1963, argued that London and the south-east should be comprehensively rebuilt, with vast areas of the inner cities bulldozed and replaced by blocks of flats, winding streets by a rectilinear system of motorways and on-ramps, and pedestrians segregated from traffic by walkways in the sky. Detroit, the spiritual home of the motor car, was his guiding light. The planners, in their patrician wisdom, would determine where the people would live, where they would work, and how they would spend their leisure time.

Sounds familiar? He would have loved the PAP govt’s HDB programme which has won global accolades though not from anti-PAP cyber-warriors who missed out on the rise in HDB apartment prices and are banging their balls and cursing the PAP and the 60% who voted for the PAP in frustration.

But this top-down, rational approach didn’t work in the UK, He soon changed his mind. Wherever that approach was tried—in Birmingham, or Glasgow, or around the elevated Westway in north-west London—it caused exactly the sort of ugliness and alienation he had hoped to banish.

So,

In the 1970s he began arguing that one way to deal with urban decay might be a bonfire of regulations; the idea, he said, was to “recreate the Hong Kong of the 1950s and 1960s inside inner Liverpool or inner Glasgow”. That sort of fertile chaos, he came to believe, was exactly what made cities so important, and such exciting places to live. He was an early advocate of the view—these days the received wisdom—that by allowing people to form connections with like-minded colleagues, cities are the engines of a country’s economic, cultural and artistic life.

The HDB programme worked because we had pretty gd planners, a sheepish population (emigrants from Animal Farm?), and one LKY whose gang was not afraid to bang heads to make sure that the sheep people behaved responsibly in the new environment: rememer the punishments for littering and killer litter.

Funnily, the govt is now trying to diktat Sir Peter Hall’s “fertile chaos”* idea. Maybe taz why the SPF allowed the Little India riot to happen? And allow ang moh FTs to get drunk and to beat up locals? And PRC FTs to litter, dirty MRT stations?

Related posts:

LKY & greenery

Green S’pore

———–

*Btw, HK city in the 50s and 60s was not a pleasant place if one didn’t live in Repulse bay or on the Peak.

Public housing: a brickbat, two cheers & constructive suggestions

In Environment, Political governance on 07/02/2013 at 6:25 am

As the population target “worse-case scenario” or “projection” of 6.9m as envisaged by the White Paper will require a lot more public housing, here are some constructive, nation-building ideas from me on how to avoid rabbit hatches, or battery-hen housing, in the sky. We can live like pigs in a modern-day Danish farm: comfortable, hygienic surroundings. Danish farmers believe that happy pigs produce the best bacon: something the PAP govt should take to heart, “Keep the exploited happy, and they will remain happy to be exploited”.

But first I want to analyse two “buah tahan” comments that irritate me.

Who comes out with the most stupid comment on the row on Executive Condos? No it’s not Khaw, surprising; but one Jaimie Chong, an EC penthouse owner. She thinks she  will still get permission to cover the “open” space: EC0001. Her agent says so. How dumb can this rich gal get?

And secondly, our dear leader said, ” If government did not get involved in housing, it would be like Hong Kong: overcrowded and subject to high prices …” Is it not surprising that the usual S’pore self-haters who populate the pages of TRE, TOC and Facebook didn’t challenge him on this?

He is telling us a Hard Truth (perhaps the only one) that is grounded in fact: in housing, the PAP govt does more for S’poreans, than the HK govt.

– “In 2012, HDB offered a record number of 34,237 new flats comprising 27,084 new flats under the Build-To-Order (BTO) system and 7,153 balance flats under the Sales of Balance Flats Exercise … HDB had earlier announced that at least 20,000 BTO flats are planned for 2013. HDB is finalising its building plans for 2013 and will now target to launch at least 23,000 BTO flats. These projects will have a good geographical spread in various towns/estates which compares with 75,000 completed over the past five years.” (HDB)

– Contrast this with what HK’s CEO said last month as reported by the BBC, “He promised action to address a property crunch that has seen some residents forced out of the property market and even into tiny so-called “cubicle homes”.

Land would be both re-zoned and reclaimed so it could be developed for housing, leading to a greater supply, he said. A target of 100,000 new public housing units would also be set for the five years from 2018.

“As long as the housing shortage persists, we have no alternative but to restrict external demand and curb speculative activities,” he said.”

The 20,000 a year HK programme starts in 2018.

But it’s only two cheers for PM, because by comparing our public housing programme to that of HK, he is forgetting that dad was a “social democrat” (dad said that in his books), not an ang moh lord or HK property tycoon: social democrats believe in raising living standards. So, of course, the govt had to get involved in public housing.

Now to the constructive, nation-building part on how make us as happy as Danish pigs, not as unhappy as battery hens.

Try this Dutch approach, Khaw? No not land reclamation. Architects in Holland are creating prototype neighbourhoods of sustainable floating houses. Their aim is to have new cities entirely out at sea as an alternative way of living. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-21180779. We got plenty of sea too, and the weather’s a lot nicer.

And best of all, we can retain the central catchment reserve, Ubin, the mangrove swamps (so beloved by mosquito-lovers) and the golf courses (that ministers and senior civil servants, and their private sector pals play on).

And floating towns will allow S’pore the possibility of experimenting with an alternative to 50-storey HDB coops flats. We could have hutong-style community housing (high density, low rise buildings) in the new sea towns. Plenty of room to expand sideways there. I read somewhere that London is experimenting along the lines of high density, low rise buildings . Can’t locate the link to story.

BTW, watch this 2011 BBC video clip on S’pore : Urban plan S’pore style http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-13852298. The architect who wants “more space” must be very upset with Khaw’s “worse-case scenario”.

Urban farming here

In Environment on 05/02/2013 at 5:23 am

All this talk of a population of 6.9m (“worse-case scenario”, “projection” or “plan to dilute locals to 55% of the voting public”) reminded me of this BBC article

Today, there are only a handful of farms left, most of which are located in agrotechnology parks that take up less than 2% of Singapore’s total available land.

In recent years, the government has tried to diversify and secure Singapore’s food supplies, though much of its food still comes from nearby Malaysia and large producers such as China.

Singapore has been widening its use of contract farming and overseas food zones, where local buyers can control everything from production to processing.

Closer to home, in 2009 it set up a food fund worth 5m Singapore dollars (£2.6m; $4.1m) to support local farms and invest in research and development.

The government has also been trying to promote more creative methods of growing food, such as the urban farming projects similar to that run by Mr Ng, where residential or commercial areas can be used to grow fruit and vegetables.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-20007448

Use the roof tops of high rise blocks http://atans1.wordpress.com/2012/10/11/a-natural-topic-for-national-conversation/

Imagine this local vertical farm on a HDB roof http://www.channelnewsasia.com/stories/singaporelocalnews/view/1233261/1/.html

My S’pore: A greener & more pleasant land

In Environment on 19/06/2012 at 6:01 am

Swiss Gardens in the Sky

A few weeks ago, a Swiss architect suggested in a newspaper article that S’pore creates gardens in the sky using our high-rise buildings. I tot, “What a lovely idea” and had visions of the Hanging Gardens of Babylon with flowering creepers on the sides of high-rises, and fountains, formal gardens and ponds on the roofs. Yup, very decadent fascist visions of greenery.

Well the reality in Switzerland is more prosaic and just as wonderful : Living roofs recapture what is now essentially negative space within the city and turn it into a chain of rooftop islands that connect with the countryside at large.

 http://www.bbc.com/travel/slideshow/20120608-switzerlands-habitats-in-the-sky

This being S’pore, we could use HDB roof-tops to be self-sufficient in basic veggies, and range-free eggs.

And lest we forget, LKY was all for green and pleasant spaces before they became fashionable among the local chattering classes http://atans1.wordpress.com/2010/12/10/lest-we-forget-mms-responsible-for-our-greenery/

If he were running S’pore, I’m sure he would crack the whip, and spur the serfs  to convert existing roof-tops into oases or, if you prefer, islands, of greenery especially as it would make S’pore cooler. He loves cooler temperatures. I’m with him on greenery and cooler temperatures.

Why keep the ex-railway corridor green

It can together with the Swiss-style gardens in the sky be our”unofficial countryside”.

Richard Mabey has memorably called the “unofficial countryside” – Britain’s roadside verges and railway cuttings, canal towpaths and brownfield sites. This also includes the million or so acres of private gardens … and bigger than all the nature reserves in Britain put together.

These places – many of them in the heart of our towns and cities – provide a vital oasis for Britain’s wild creatures, a haven as important as anywhere in the British Isles for supporting a diverse range of plants and animals. Perhaps because of the wide range of wildlife found in our urban areas, and the frequency with which we encounter these city creatures, urban Britons are just as connected to nature as – arguably sometimes more so than – their rural neighbours. The countryside and those who live there no longer have a monopoly on nature. http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2012/may/19/wildlife-british-cities-stephen-moss

While we won’t have tigers, tapir and deer; and don’t want wild boars; we could have civet cats, mouse deer and “padi” mice in the corridor.

Warren Buffett: Planet wrecker investor

In Environment, Investments on 18/02/2012 at 5:19 am

His investments are wrecking the world

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/r-paul-herman/warren-buffetts-billions-_b_1251884.html

Lest we forget: MM’s responsible for our greenery

In Environment on 10/12/2010 at 5:22 am

What has having a green environment do for us?

Well A Dutch study suggests every 10% increase in green space can postpone health complaints in communities by five years. And a US study is regularly cited to suggest patients that have a view of nature through hospital windows recover better after surgery.

And as this is S’pore, where moneytheism  is the be-all and end all of life.

It is almost an accepted wisdom that a property positioned on a pretty tree-lined street surrounded by shrubbery is more appealing than its counterpart on a concrete-clad bare and barren road.

Some British and US surveys suggest a lush lawn or well-landscaped yard can improve property prices by as much as 15%.

BBC Online article

Younger S’poreans might not realise that in the 70s, one LKY started the green campaign, which included planting more tress. As an NS man, I was not impressed, weekends were burnt planting trees.


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 218 other followers