The Workers’ Party member of parliament Leon Perera had asked in parliament whether there are any processes in place to ensure the protection of widely recognised heritage sites, such as Haw Par Villa, which do not fall under the purview of NHB and existing laws that protect heritage sites and national monuments.

The Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth provided a written reply that states the National Heritage Board (NHB) work closely with public sector agencies to incorporate heritage considerations in our land planning and development process through a systematic framework. 

Generally, all development proposals are subject to a robust planning evaluation process that considers impact across various aspects, including heritage.

“The NHB and the Urban Redevelopment Authority carry out research and documentation efforts to identify these buildings and sites of heritage interest to guide downstream planning,” said the Ministry.

Built in 1937, Haw Par Villa was conceptualised by Aw Boon Haw the founder of Tiger Balm, and is Singapore’s largest outdoor art gallery. It recently underwent a facelift and now has a fully air-conditioned ten courts of hell.

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“Sites which are found to have significant heritage value could be further studied for potential conservation or preservation as National Monuments,” added MCCY.

“In addition, both agencies regularly engage with expert panels, such as the Heritage and Identity Partnership and Heritage Advisory Panel, as well as the community to seek their views and suggestions on the heritage value of the sites involved. This extends to locations which are not studied for conservation or preservation.”

MCCY explained that the discussions also involve different ways to consider and recollect the heritage of these sites, such as the documentation of social memories. These could include, for example, installing heritage storyboards or markers, organising programmes, workshops and talks for the public on the heritage of the area, and curating guided tours to these heritage sites.

“These efforts allow the agencies to make informed decisions on how to integrate heritage sensibly into our modern cityscape while striking a balance between safeguarding our legacy and meeting future development needs.”

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In 2019, when Grace Fu was the MCCY minister, she said, “Singapore’s heritage belongs to every Singaporean. We hope our communities will join us in playing a part to preserve and promote our heritage, and give life to another key pillar of Our SG Heritage Plan. One way in which the government supports monument owners in this effort is through the National Monument Fund.”

Launched in 2008, the National Monument Fund is a grant for owners of non-profit or religious national monuments. It co-funds the restoration and maintenance works of these monuments, which can be done best when the government, monument owners, and the community work together.