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

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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.”
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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.

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