Archaeological study of Keppel Club site to begin this year

Keppel Club has until March 31 next year to demolish its clubhouse and reinstate the site. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE – An archaeological study of the Keppel Club site will begin later this year and be completed prior to the area’s redevelopment into a housing estate.

Announcing the study on Wednesday (July 20), National Development Minister Desmond Lee said the authorities recognise the history and archaeological potential of the site, which will have more than 9,000 new homes.

He added in his Facebook post that the study – which the National Heritage Board, Housing Board and the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) will commission – will improve understanding of the site’s historical role and significance.

Archaeologists will conduct excavation work, and recover and assess any finds, he said.

“Agencies will work closely together to manage the overall development timeline,” Mr Lee added.

About 6,000 homes on the 48ha site – the size of about 67 football fields – will be public flats, and the first of these will go on sale within three years, said HDB in April. The remaining 3,000 homes are expected to be private housing.

In a written response to public feedback on an environmental impact study that was carried out for the site in 2020, HDB and URA said the site “could contain multiple layers of history from the 14th century to World War II”.

Soldiers’ accounts of the war said that defeated British soldiers gathered in the Keppel Golf Links area not long after the British surrendered to the Japanese in 1942, while heritage enthusiasts said multiracial communities could have existed in the area as far back as the 1300s.

Besides carrying out the archaeological study, HDB and URA also said in their response published on Wednesday that agencies will safeguard “a planting strip with an additional patch of greenery” along the site’s eastern boundary, following feedback and suggestions from nature groups.

HDB had received 46 responses during the feedback period for the study from April 12 to May 11.

The study had found that despite being highly manicured and managed, the Keppel Club site provides foraging, nesting and ecological connectivity for birds between the Southern Ridges – comprising Mount Faber Park, Telok Blangah Hill Park and Kent Ridge Park – and Labrador Nature Reserve, as well as Sentosa.

The new eastern green strip is in addition to about 10ha of green spaces that the HDB will include in the housing site. It said in April that four green corridors will be part of the area’s development.

HDB and URA said that the eastern green strip will provide an alternative connection to the foothills of Mount Faber, for birds that are more sensitive to the urban environment such as the straw-headed bulbul, thick-billed green pigeon and greater coucal.

They added that agencies will explore ways to introduce wildlife crossings to facilitate ecological movement across a proposed new road which will run through the site.

The lease for Keppel Club’s golf course expired on June 30, and the club has until March 31 next year to demolish its clubhouse and reinstate the site.

International Council on Monuments and Sites Singapore president Yeo Kang Shua said the archaeological study should be scoped to include areas closest to the coast, as artefacts within the golf course may already have been disturbed.

Noting that URA has identified the southern coast as an identity corridor, he urged agencies to look into developing a heritage plan for the area that covers state-owned colonial bungalows in Bukit Chermin as well as Mount Faber.

“There are opportunities for these to be integrated into the plans as public amenities,” he said. URA had previously said it will use urban design to preserve and enhance the character of identity corridors.

Dr Yeo added that he hopes the archaeological study’s report will be released to the public when it is completed.

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