Singapore — An architect and his wife have been prosecuted for trespassing and building on state land.
Tan Teck Siong and Cheah Mee Poh were fined a total of S$7,000 for building the main gate, driveway, walls, a fence and a part of the pool of their property in Seletar in an enclosed area on land belonging to the state.
Tan is being asked to pay an additional S$5,000 in fines under the Building Control Act. He made a false declaration in December 2005 by saying that their building work stayed true to the plans that had been previously approved.
The three-storey house the couple owned occupied 144 sq m of state land for almost 15 years. It was built in 2005 but has remained empty since then, according to a report in straitstimes.com.
A part of the swimming pool, two boundary walls, entrance to the driveway and main gate of their house and a fence sit on state land.
This was found out in 2013 when the PUB, the national water agency, began a drainage improvement project in the area due to the flooding that occurred.
Tan, 62, was fined S$4,000 and Cheah, 60, S$3,000 for trespassing under the State Lands Encroachments Act.
The couple could have been made to pay as much as S$5,000 each, serve a six-month jail sentence, or both.
They have owned the 546.6 sq m property in Jalan Tari Zapin since 2001, where they intended to build a house for Tan’s parents.
Their plans were approved and Tan was named as the person who would make sure that that the construction work would be done according to building regulations.
However, Tan’s father died in 2005 and the house has been unoccupied since then.
After the discovery that their construction had encroached on state land, the Singapore Land Authority (SLA) asked Tan and Cheah to have the encroachments removed.
The two said this could not be done, as it would block the entrance for vehicles to their property.
And while solutions were discussed over meetings and correspondence, no satisfactory agreement could be reached.
As for the PUB, it could not improve 95 metres of drainage around the property, and had to resort to temporary measures to prevent flooding, which cost around S$24,000.
In June 2019, the SLA issued a demand to the couple, who finally said yes to removing the encroachments on state land.
In December, Tan and Cheah pleaded guilty to the charges.
At the sentencing, District Judge Clement Tan said he found Tan and Cheah’s culpability to be moderate and the amount of harm they caused moderate as well.
He noted that no damage was done to state land.
The judge added: ”What is clear and undisputed is that Tan and Cheah had erected a new entrance gate to the property which effectively cut off any public access, thereby ‘privatising’ the driveway which is actually part of state land.”
And since the land was not damaged and no flooding occurred during this time, the judge felt that jail time for the couple was unnecessary.
He also said that Cheah was less culpable than Tan, as he had been the person overseeing the building of the property. /TISG
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