Authorities took over four years to notice illegal building extension on state-owned road, and another year to resolve

Photo: Wendy Chan

By Phyllis Lee

An illegal building extension on a state-owned road at 54 Somme Rd was left unnoticed by the authorities since before 2012 – but that changed when a nearby resident contacted Central Singapore District Mayor Denise Phua last September.

Ms Wendy Chan is a resident and the chairman of her condominium’s management council, which lies on the same street as the extension.

Chan believes the area was mostly filled with dilapidated shop houses before 2012:

“That’s why nobody really noticed it. But as more people moved into the area, then I suppose more people started noticing it.”

Chan was initially alerted to the illegal extension by her neighbours when she moved into her residence in September 2012.

It is understood that the extension was made to create a bigger kitchen in the building, which is believed to be owned by a semi-religious organisation. She said:

“My neighbours have mentioned it many times, but I was dealing with other stuff and didn’t really have the time to settle this issue yet.”

But as years passed, things changed and the unauthorised structure started affecting others in the area.

The extension obstructed the entrance to two other newer buildings down the road. This meant that it would be difficult for fire engines and ambulances to reach the buildings during emergencies.

A van being obstructed from entering the road. Photo: Wendy Chan

Heavy vehicles like rubbish and construction trucks were also unable to make it past the extension. Chan elaborated:

“It got to the point when they [members of the organisation] would have more and more events. They would even extend out of the illegal extension onto the road to cook every few months.”
The building, believed to be owned by a semi-religious organisation, holds events once every few months. Photo: Wendy Chan

Chan finally decided to pursue the matter by contacting the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) around June last year.

After a series of email exchange with the authorities, Chan then cc-ed the four Members of Parliament from the Jalan Besar GRC on Sept 11.

Only Ms Denise Phua replied, saying that she would appeal to the relevant agencies to look into the issue.

On Oct 21, the Singapore Land Authority (SLA) told Chan that they found that “the illegal structure is erected on service road which is managed by the Land Transport Authority (LTA).”

Strangely, LTA had earlier said that the building extension was not on “Government land, but within private property”.

Although SLA said that they would be working together with LTA to take enforcement actions against the offender, Chan did not get another update from them. Seeing that no action was taken, she then wrote to Ms Phua again.

On May 16, Ms Phua replied to say that she had written to LTA’s Chief Executive Officer about this issue.

The next day, SLA informed Chan that the matter was being followed up on, and action was then taken quickly.

The extension has since been removed, and the road is almost restored to its original state.

Chan told The Independent:

“If something is obviously illegal and blocking the road like that, why did it take so long for the relevant government agencies to do something about it? It was very obvious to me that it was only when Denise Phua stepped in that they actually thought about it and worked on it seriously.”

It took about a year and a half for this matter to be resolved since Chan first contacted the authorities.

At press time, SLA and LTA have yet to respond to media queries from The Independent.


  1. This is a backlane between two roads Jalan Besar n Somme Rd.Very quiet since late 60s. In front of Somme Rd. is City Square, former New World Amesement Park.

  2. “If something is obviously illegal and blocking the road like that, why did it take so long for the relevant government agencies to do something about it?”

    Because the driver is sleeping so must give it a slap to wake him up. If cannot wake up then change driver because he has no clue which direction he is driving.

  3. They seem to employ lots of foreigner to take charge of encroachment and illegal extension they are not localised with theLTA / BCA rules and regulations. This case handle by LTA, see their responds and so complacent, took a long time for the action. My bad experience with BCA was the home illegal extension at my neighbourhood. I complaint to BCA, these people doesn’t seem to do their work and never check, thus, allowing the construction to finish with the illegal extension. normally the house must have a set back of 2 metres from the fence, but the private house owner built and extent to the wall, allowing the rain water from the awning to pour and splash onto the public pavement. Till todate no action was taken, so why have the rules. Twenty five over years ago BCA goes by the rules, the illegal structures to be torn down otherwise you will get heavy fines, that’s what’s happens to a friend building illegal structures. The system runs by the current government are complacent and shitty.

  4. Don’t understand why URA took no action even if the illegal structure is on LTA’s land. Any extension, erection on any land must first be approved by URA , subject to other relevant authorities approvals. This case of illegal erection should sound alarm to URA to investigate and send a notice asap to the building owner to explain. Like to understand from URA why it chose not to act as mention by the MP.

  5. Singapore will slide into anarchy if this continues. The authorities seem unwilling to do what is right. In this case it is so blatantly clear that it is an illegal structure encroaching into public land, yet the authorities have the temerity to say it is private. Obviously the owner for the property must have some influence.

  6. For licensed F&B outlets, you can also refer to NEA for extension of business as well discharging wastewater and litters into the open public area including public (backlane) drains. These are offences under NEA health laws. The NEA officer i/c of the outlet will also have to answer to this.

  7. Alas LKY is no more around….complacency is creeping in due to LHL no blame culture..sign. if only LKY is around…many CEOs including Ministers would b sacked. LHL is a very weak n ineffective leader

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