MP Joan Pereira calls for limited access to HDB rooftop gardens to prevent nuisance, littering

SINGAPORE – An MP has called for measures to limit access to Housing Board rooftop gardens to reduce inconvenience and nuisance to residents caused by visitors.

In her adjournment motion on Tuesday, Ms Joan Pereira (Tanjong Pagar GRC) said residents in her Henderson-Dawson ward have encountered dirty lifts, overflowing dustbins, littering, illegal smoking and loud partying as a result of inconsiderate people visiting the rooftop gardens there.

“On weekends, visitors go to these gardens late at night too and their noise also disturbs residents trying to sleep. In the morning, the cleaners are confronted with cigarette butts and alcohol bottles that are carelessly littered all over the sky gardens,” Ms Pereira said, adding that these incur additional costs for the town council.

When asked, she said the incidents took place at [email protected], which has a rooftop garden on the 47th floor.

In contrast, the popular rooftop terrace on the 50th storey at [email protected] is “much more orderly”, she noted in her speech.

This is because non-residents need to register and pay a $6 fee to access the rooftop via a turnstile gantry, and visitor numbers are limited to 200 a day, she said.

The rooftop terrace was closed to visitors in the earlier days of the Covid-19 pandemic.

“I earnestly appeal for similar preventive measures to ensure the orderly management of public access to all other HDB sky gardens all over Singapore,” she said.

Ms Pereira added that her volunteers have been patrolling the sky gardens after 10pm for more than two years, to remind visitors to leave as residents need to rest.

“They are exhausted. Expecting them to patrol these gardens daily is not only time-consuming but unsustainable,” she said, noting that the problem surfaces on weekends and on festive occasions.

Ms Pereira said that over the past few years, many measures have been taken by the HDB, town council, residents’ committees, the National Environment Agency, the police and other government agencies to minimise the disamenities.

“Our current measures are insufficient and not working. I hope we can move on and try new measures,” she said. “My residents and I are mindful that these are public spaces. But public access is not a licence to abuse the space or behave inconsiderately and irresponsibly.”

In response, Senior Minister of State for National Development Sim Ann said the HDB cannot treat rooftop gardens as exclusive enclosed spaces. But she acknowledged the crowding residents face in lifts and at lift lobbies when there are visitors.

“What we are able to do is to assist the town council and the local grassroots in signalling to visitors that sky gardens, while open in nature, are residential amenities and not domestic tourist attractions,” she said.

The HDB has been working with town councils and various government agencies to implement measures aimed at addressing the disamenities, she said.

For instance, the SkyVille SkyTerrace Taskforce was set up in 2016 to manage crowds at the rooftop gardens on the eve of festivities. Following feedback from residents about the larger-than-expected turnout at SkyVille on New Year’s Eve in 2020, the task force ramped up surveillance and regulation by stepping up patrols, especially on Friday and Saturday nights, Ms Sim said. More signage and closed-circuit television cameras were also installed.

Since New Year’s Eve in 2021, the sky gardens have been closed nightly from 10pm. “Even though the situation on the ground appears to have stabilised, we agree with the need for constant surveillance and vigilance through the use of signage and CCTV cameras to warn visitors and deter errant behaviour,” Ms Sim said.

She added that the gated rooftop terrace at [email protected] was an exception due to the development’s central location, its iconic status as the tallest HDB residential building and the novelty of its panoramic city views.

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