HDB Unveils Plans for a New Public Housing Estate at Site of Former Police Academy in the Mount Pleasant Area
Development plans will yield about 5,000 new homes while sensitively weaving in the area’s rich tapestry of nature and heritage
HDB today announced the conceptual development plans for a new housing estate, on a brownfield site largely comprised by the former Police Academy site (“Old PA (OPA)”) in the Mount Pleasant area, to meet the strong demand for public housing. When fully developed, the new 33-hectare estate will provide about 5,000 new homes and add to the good geographical spread of public housing to meet the different needs of Singaporeans, including young families who want to live near their parents for better mutual care and support. The plan is to launch the first Build-to-Order project of the new housing estate within the next five years.
2 Bounded by Thomson Road and the Pan Island Expressway (PIE), the site of the new housing estate, which includes the Old Police Academy (OPA), has been earmarked for residential development in URA’s Master Plan since 1998. It is situated close to established housing areas such as Toa Payoh. Future residents will be well served by the Mount Pleasant MRT station on the Thomson-East Coast Line (TEL), which will open in tandem with the completion of public housing developments in the area.
Indicative boundary of new housing estate outlined in red. HDB will be developing approximately 33 ha of land in Mount Pleasant, bounded by Thomson Road and the Pan Island Expressway (PIE)
Conceptual Development Plans for New Housing Estate
Aerial picture of the site of the new housing estate in the Mount Pleasant area showing the central portion of the OPA and Kopi Sua Cemetery.
3 Characterised by hilly terrain, the site of the new housing estate is an area with rich heritage, being home to the Old Police Academy and pre-war black-and-white bungalows. It is also close to Bukit Brown and the Central Catchment Nature Reserve. See Annex A for more background on the site and the OPA.
4 Given the scale and context of the site, a pilot detailed heritage study and an Environmental Impact Study (EIS) were carried out to assess the heritage and ecological value of the area, and guide HDB’s future development plans to mitigate the potential impact to both its natural and built environment. The agencies also consulted various stakeholders such as heritage and nature groups, as well as the police community on the proposed development plans. Based on the EIS findings and their feedback, the plans have been carefully adjusted to ensure that the new housing estate would be sensitively integrated into its environment, for example, by containing the development and its supporting infrastructure largely to the brownfield area to minimise environmental impact. The reports from both studies have been published on HDB’s website for public feedback as well.
5 The design of the new housing estate will weave in the rich tapestry of heritage and nature in the area. Broadly, these include the retention and adaptive reuse of selected heritage police academy buildings and reinterpretation of key spaces in OPA, such as the former parade ground, to integrate memories with new living spaces. The neighbourhood centre will be designed to be open, green and low-rise, with community spaces for residents to interact and bond.
Detailed heritage study carried out to integrate heritage elements into the developments
6 The OPA, which will be redeveloped to comprise a large part of the new housing estate, presented URA, HDB and NHB an opportunity to pilot a large-scale detailed heritage study to provide an independent and detailed evaluation of the heritage significance of the site, the potential impact of development, and the proposed mitigating measures. The extensive study was conducted between Aug 2018 and Sep 2019. This additional layer of external assessment provided agencies with a more holistic understanding of the significance of the buildings, architectural design features and spaces at the OPA. It also allowed agencies to better consider the trade-offs of the proposed plans, and develop the strategies and appropriate measures to sensitively integrate heritage elements with the new housing estate. See Annex B for a summary of the heritage study findings.
7 HDB, URA and NHB have thoroughly considered the findings of the detailed heritage study and feedback from the heritage community and stakeholder groups such as the Heritage Advisory Panel (HAP) and the Heritage and Identity Partnership (HIP), All Things Bukit Brown (atBB) and the Singapore Heritage Society. Since 2016, SPF has also been engaging the larger police fraternity including in-service, retired and Police National Service officers who are well-acquainted with the history of the OPA, to assist in the documentation of the sites and to seek their ideas on sustaining and celebrating the heritage of the institution.
8 Based on the findings and feedback, agencies will retain four buildings in the OPA (Blocks 1, 2, 27, 28), considering their assessed heritage significance. These will be meaningfully adapted for new contemporary uses while retaining the physical buildings. In addition, a part of the parade square will be retained as an open space within the new housing estate.
9 For buildings or spaces that cannot be retained in their entirety due to development needs or technical constraints, HDB will explore various strategies to retain and keep the heritage significance of these spaces. These include referencing their architectural elements in new developments where feasible, as well as exploring the possibility of retaining physical elements of the key sites in the OPA, and incorporating them into the new housing estate as street furniture or markers. HDB and URA will carry out photographic documentation to capture the key buildings and spaces that cannot be retained.
10 Outside of the new housing estate, URA has also identified two other buildings (Blocks 13 and 153) which will be retained. Block 153 will retain its current use as the Senior Police Officers’ Mess, while the future use for Block 13 will be further studied. Together, these six buildings are assessed to be the most representative of the Police’s historical, social and architectural heritage in the area.
New workgroup to be formed with heritage groups, HDB and SPF
11 In agencies’ earlier engagements with the heritage community, there was consensus to work towards integrating the four heritage buildings within the design of the new housing estate. Dr Venka Purushothaman, Deputy President & Provost of LASALLE College of the Arts and member of the HIP said, “I am delighted that key heritage buildings of the Old Police Academy will be kept. It is important that heritage elements are incorporated into the new estate for everyone to develop a rich appreciation of the history of police in Singapore. Such integration of heritage into 21st century public estates demonstrates a deep conviction to identify heritage not as a matter of the past but a pier into the future. This development will resonate well with Singaporeans.”
12 HDB and SPF will jointly lead a new Workgroup involving URA, NHB, as well as members of the police fraternity and heritage consultants, to focus on how the rich heritage of OPA can be preserved and incorporated into the future residential parcels and/or design of common/park spaces, prior to the commencement of works. Chaired by Minister of State for Home Affairs and National Development Dr Muhammad Faishal Ibrahim, the Workgroup will discuss ways to enhance the distinctiveness and identity of the estate, such as through proposals for new road names related to the police heritage.
Environmental Impact Study carried out to guide plans
13 The new housing estate will sit on a brownfield site and will require minimal clearance of existing vegetation. To better understand the existing ecology of the area and manage any potential impact of the development to its immediate surroundings, HDB commissioned an EIS in Jan 2019 covering the area of the planned housing estate (33 ha) as well as its wider surroundings beyond the development site. This larger Study Area is bounded by Mount Pleasant Road to the north, Bukit Brown to the west, Thomson Road to the east, and the Pan Island Expressway (PIE) to the south. It covers a total area of approximately 71.6 ha. Besides assessing biodiversity, the EIS also studied physical environment parameters such as hydrology and water quality. The study found that the site is composed of predominantly abandoned-land forest and managed vegetation, including landscape and streetscape plantings, green verges, and managed lawns. Together with three streams within the site, i.e. a partially-naturalised stream (Stream 1) and two naturalised streams (Streams 2 and 3), as well as two stormwater drains, they provide a variety of habitats for fauna. See Annex C for a summary of the EIS findings.
14 Following the conclusion of the EIS, HDB had engaged nature groups to refine the plans for the new housing estate to further minimise the potential impact to the environment. In particular, the proposed road network, meant to support the travel needs of future residents, was adjusted so that the surrounding greenery in Bukit Brown and the adjacent Kopi Sua Cemetery would not be affected. Two out of the three streams in the area would also be fully conserved, with the third stream partially conserved.
15 The road network requires two access points – one from the existing Onraet Road off PIE and one from Thomson Road to provide accessibility for the new housing estate. Based on the original plan, the access point from the PIE would be via a new slip road that would cut through Kopi Sua Cemetery. Taking into consideration the EIS findings, HDB, in consultation with LTA, has revised the plan for the road network to instead take access via the existing Onraet Road off PIE instead. With the adjustment, we will now be able to avoid affecting Kopi Sua Cemetery, as well as two of the three streams (Streams 2 and 3 as shown in the plan below). We will also be able to conserve about one-third of the upstream portion of Stream 1, where there is richer biodiversity. HDB will study how best to divert the downstream portion of Stream 1 and integrate it with the urban drainage network to facilitate flood control, while at the same time, maintaining the hydrology of the upper part of the stream.
Based on the original plan, the access point from the PIE would have been via a new slip road that would cut through Kopi Sua Cemetery.
16 In addition, HDB will carry out other mitigating measures to minimise the potential impact on flora and fauna in the surrounding areas. These include planting more trees along the edge of Bukit Brown to serve as a natural barrier to light and noise, and to filter vehicular emissions that may be harmful to animals. We will also phase clearance activities to avoid the bird breeding season, as well as set up tree protection zones to protect large trees. In developing the estate, we will put in place an Environmental Monitoring and Management Plan (EMMP) to ensure the effectiveness of the mitigation measures, and to closely monitor and manage any potential environmental impact arising from the infrastructure and building works.
17 Dr Shawn Lum, Senior Lecturer at the Nanyang Technological University’s Asian School of the Environment, and President of the Nature Society (Singapore) said, “The new housing estate will sit between a mature estate and major roads on one side, and a rich nature area on the other. In the discussions with nature groups for this site, the conversations ventured beyond risk mitigation measures to focus on how nature can be made a feature of the new development and become a defining character of life. In many cities in the world, only the wealthiest have the space and greenery to access urban nature. The new housing estate has the potential to set new standards for experiencing nature in a public housing estate.”
Part of Singapore Polo Club to be acquired
18 To facilitate the development of public housing and estate road network in the area, a small part of the land at the Singapore Polo Club (SPC), located to the north-east of the new housing estate, will be acquired by the Government. The clubhouse, field and main horse stables will not be affected.
19 The Singapore Land Authority (SLA) has gazetted the acquisition of the affected land today. SLA and HDB will work closely with SPC to assist them through the acquisition process and to minimise the impact on SPC’s operations.
Public invited to give feedback on plans
20 The heritage study and Environmental Impact Study are available on the HDB InfoWEB, and members of the public are invited to give feedback on the plans from 23 Nov 2021 to 21 Dec 2021. We will consider the feedback carefully to ensure that development of the new housing estate is undertaken with great care, to meet the future housing needs of Singaporeans while balancing nature and heritage conservation.
21 HDB will continue to study and review the conceptual development plans for the new housing estate in a holistic and comprehensive manner, and respond carefully and sensitively to the site context and surrounding areas.
22 The detailed heritage study conducted for the OPA site is the first on such a scale, and builds on the existing heritage evaluation process to ensure that heritage considerations are robustly and objectively considered upstream. Agencies will take on board lessons learnt from the pilot heritage study conducted for the OPA site to inform future studies and continue to strengthen and refine the planning evaluation process, including the possibility of formalising a framework by which such studies may be required.
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Housing Development Board
Urban Redevelopment Authority
Singapore Land Authority
23 November 2021
Background of the site of the new housing estate and the Old Police Academy
The new housing estate is on a brownfield site largely comprised by the site of the Old Police Academy, in the Mount Pleasant area. The area is characterised by hilly terrain where the premises of the Old Police Academy and pre-war Black and White bungalows are located. The land was developed in 1921 by the government to build the Old Police Academy, which was opened in 1929 as the Police Depot, and went on to play a vital role in the development of the Police Force during the Straits Settlements era and beyond. For over eight decades, the Old Police Academy provided police training and education to generations of officers, and served as a landmark institution until 2005, when its functions relocated to the Home Team Academy in Choa Chu Kang.
Mount Pleasant, in general, is a scenic area known for its green ambience. In recognition of the mature and significant trees flanking Mount Pleasant Road, the road was gazetted for conservation as a Heritage Road in 2006. 
The new housing estate is situated near Toa Payoh, the first town comprehensively planned and developed by HDB and one of Singapore’s oldest housing estates. Toa Payoh was developed in 1964 and is now home to more than 100,000 HDB residents.
Summary of heritage study findings
The study yielded the following key findings:
- The Old Police Academy played a vital role in the development of the Straits Settlements police force. It marked the first time Singapore had a permanent institution to train and professionalise its law enforcement body. As a centre for innovation in police training and education of recruits, the Old Police Academy played a vital role in the professional development of police officers from the 1920s to 2005 until its closure in 2005.
- The layout of the buildings, grounds and associated features reflects the history of police training and education, institutional design, social attitudes and economic development over eight decades. These buildings and structures have substantial and unique associations with particular communities, such as current and former Singapore Police Force (SPF) personnel, SPF National Servicemen and Singaporeans.
Based on the assessment of the significance of all buildings and open areas at the Old Police Academy, Blocks 1, 2, 27, 28, 153, the Old Drill Shed, Swimming Pool, Parade Square and the Recreation Field are considered the most significant buildings and open areas in the history of the police force in Singapore. This is due to their strong organisational and historical associations, architectural and aesthetic values, as well as deep communal associations with the police in Singapore and Malaysia.
Blocks 1, 2, 13, 27 and 28 were built between 1926 and 1930 as part of the original Old Police Academy. Their geographical distribution reflects how the buildings had been laid out according to the terrain: administrative and training functions were located on flat lower grounds, while accommodation and medical facilities were placed on higher and hillier grounds.
The Neoclassical Blocks 1 and 2 were the main administrative buildings situated at the original main entrance of Old Police Academy at Whitley Road. They were physical, visual, and symbolic landmarks for trainees, providing the backdrop for parade ground events and graduation photoshoots.
Blocks 27 and 28 are a pair of colonial-style bungalows used as senior officers’ accommodation. Each bungalow features a unique butterfly-shaped semi-detached layout with full-length verandahs, and were designed with tropical sensibilities while retaining its English roots. Situated on high ground, they overlook the academy and are visible from the Pan-Island Expressway (PIE).
Block 13 is a unique building in the Old Police Academy which began construction in 1928 as a clinic and hospital ward. It also served as the primary entry point to the medical centre. Built in the style of plantation houses raised on masonry piers, the building was designed with surrounding verandahs and large timber shutters for natural ventilation.
Just outside the academy is an art deco bungalow at 153 Mount Pleasant Road known as the Senior Police Officers’ Mess (SPOM). Built in 1931, this building is deemed as a foundation of the force’s esprit-de-corps, having hosted many formal gatherings, official functions and events, such as Dining-In, festive celebrations, weddings, networking and socialisation events for serving and retired officers.
Blk 153 - Senior Police Officers’ Mess (SPOM)
Summary of Environmental Impact Study (EIS) findings
The key findings from the EIS are as follows:
- The study area is composed of a partially-naturalised stream (Stream 1), two naturalised streams (Streams 2 and 3), two stormwater drains, and six vegetation types, predominantly abandoned-land forest and managed vegetation including landscape and streetscape plantings, green verges, and managed lawns. Together, they provide a variety of habitats for fauna.
Existing waterbodies comprising three naturalised/partially naturalised streams (Streams 1, 2, and 3) and two stormwater drains (Drain 1 and 2) in the study area
- A total of 378 plant species including trees, herbs, climbers and shrubs, were found. Close to half of the species are native, of which about half are of conservation significance. More than 2,500 trees, including 225 large trees, palms and bamboos (≥ 3m in girth/spread) were assessed
- 197 species were recorded during fauna surveys, and the highest concentration of species were recorded in the Kopi Sua Cemetery area. Overall, 14 species of conservation significance were present, namely 10 birds (e.g. Crested Goshawk, White-rumped Shama), one damselfly (i.e. Collared Threadtail), one butterfly (i.e. Common Rose), one reptile (i.e. Asian Softshell Turtle), and one bat species (i.e. bamboo bats)
Examples of species of conservation significance identified include the (top to bottom) Collared Threadtail and Changeable Hawk Eagle.
Photo credit: NParks
 Mount Pleasant MRT station is part of TEL Stage 3, which is expected to open in 2022. Mount Pleasant MRT station is designed to be integrated with the estate, and will open later, in tandem with the completion of public housing developments in the area.
 The HAP comprises experts across different disciplines. The Panel was set up 2015 to advise on NHB’s work in areas of tangible heritage and intangible cultural heritage. It is part of ongoing efforts to consult widely and to seek advice from various experts on heritage matters.
 The HIP serves as a platform for regular dialogue between URA and its members of diverse backgrounds, including individuals from the building industry, arts and heritage sector, journalism, business and property owners and academia. HIP provides feedback and suggestions on ways to sustain and manage built heritage and identity, and to promote greater public understanding of built heritage.
 Technical constraints include the need to raise existing platform levels at the OPA to meet PUB’s minimum platform level for surface water drainage, as well as meeting LTA’s Code of Practice for road networks to ensure road traffic safety.
 The gazetted Mount Pleasant Road is to the north of HDB’s development boundary for Mount Pleasant and will not be affected by upcoming developments.