History of urban planning in Singapore



Urban planning in Singapore began in the 1820s when Stamford Raffles implemented a land-use plan later known as the Raffles Town Plan.1 However, for most of the 19th century and the first half of the 20th century, Singapore’s physical growth was haphazard and largely unregulated.2 It was only in the mid-1950s that Singapore truly began its journey towards the planned city-state that the world sees today.3 Urban planning is currently undertaken within a comprehensive framework comprising two key plans: the concept plan, which is the macro-level blueprint, and the statutory master plan, which translates the vision of the concept plan into detailed guidelines.4

Colonial era
In 1822, Raffles initiated a comprehensive town plan to guide the allocation of land in the principal town to ensure that its physical growth followed an orderly pattern. This became known as the Raffles Town Plan, or the Jackson Plan, drawn up by Lieutenant Philip Jackson and published in 1828. Among its key features were a grid layout for the road network and a clear segregation of residential communities by ethnic group (European, Chinese, Indian, Malay and Arab).5 A separate area called Commercial Square (later renamed Raffles Place) was designated for commercial activities and another area was zoned for government functions. Raffles Place and the street pattern of the city centre today are evidence of this colonial legacy.6


By the early 1900s, the city area had become severely overcrowded. In the absence of an updated town plan and with the lack of control by the British government, slums had sprung up in the older sectors of the city and in the outlying areas.7 The roads had also become congested, unable to cope with the growth of motor transport.8 To alleviate these problems, the Singapore Improvement Trust (SIT) was established in 1927 with the enactment of the Singapore Improvement Ordinance.9 By the time it was dissolved in 1959, the SIT had built 23,000 housing units, which was far from adequate to meet the needs of the burgeoning population. The SIT had carried out only limited improvement works such as widening of roads. These resulted because, until 1951, the SIT had not been empowered to undertake overall physical planning and to control development.10

In 1951, following an amendment to the Singapore Improvement Ordinance, the SIT was tasked with conducting an islandwide diagnostic survey of Singapore and subsequently with preparing a master plan to guide its physical growth. The statutory master plan was completed in 1955 and approved in 1958.11 A predecessor of the current master plan, this plan regulated the type and intensity of development by specifying the land-use zoning and the maximum density or plot ratio for each site.12 It also reserved land for infrastructural uses, community facilities and open spaces.13

First concept plan
In 1959, the Legislative Assembly passed the Planning Ordinance to replace the Singapore Improvement Ordinance. The new law took effect in February 1960, simultaneously dissolving the SIT and creating the Planning Department within the Prime Minister’s Office to take on the role of central planning authority.14 By then, Singapore had become a self-governing state.15 The Planning Department was given the power to control the development of land throughout Singapore for the purpose of implementing the 1958 master plan. It also had the power to review and amend the master plan once every five years.16


However, the government soon realised that the planning strategies embodied in the master plan would be inadequate to cope with the rapid social and economic changes taking place in Singapore. It therefore sought the help of the United Nations (UN) to formulate a long-term framework for urban development in Singapore.17 UN representatives visited Singapore in 1962 and 1963, and their recommendations eventually led to the launch of the State and City Planning Project (SCP) in 1967.18 For the government, land-use planning at the time had to address the two priorities of a newly independent Singapore: the provision of adequate housing and the generation of employment opportunities for the people.19

Assisted by the UN, the government completed the SCP in 1971 and the result was Singapore’s first concept plan, a long-range plan to guide the country’s physical development for the next 20 years.20 Unlike the master plan, which provided detailed zoning and density parameters, the concept plan showed only the broad direction of the government’s land-allocation and transportation policy.21 Another key difference was that the concept plan was not a statutory document, though most of its proposals were implemented.22

The concept plan envisaged the development of high- and low-density residential estates, industrial areas and commercial centres in a ring formation around the central water catchment area, as well as a network of expressways and a mass rapid transit (MRT) system to provide islandwide interconnectivity.23 Similarly, the concept plan set aside land for the Singapore Changi Airport. The first expressway, Pan-Island Expressway, and the Changi Airport Terminal 1 were completed in 1981 and the MRT network was opened in 1987.24

Revisions of concept plan and master plan
The 1971 concept plan was subsequently reviewed to take into account the country's changing needs.25 This task was undertaken by the Urban Redevelopment Authority, which had been designated as the national planning and conservation authority since 1989.26 The revised concept plan was finalised in 1991.27 With a growing economy and the majority of Singaporeans properly housed, the focus was shifted to transforming Singapore into a “tropical city of excellence”.28 The revised plan, which emphasised improving the quality of life, proposed a wider variety of housing, more leisure facilities and more greenery. The most notable difference was that instead of the ring layout adopted in the 1971 plan, the updated plan divided Singapore into five regions (central, north, northeast, east and west) and proposed the development of four regional centres outside the central region to reduce congestion in the city-centre.29 This led to the development of the Woodlands, Tampines and Jurong East regional centres,30 with the fourth to be developed at Seletar.31 The new downtown at Marina South was also a product of the 1991 concept plan.32


Between 1971 and 1991, the master plan was revised five times – in 1965, 1970, 1975, 1980 and 1985. However, these reviews were mainly updating exercises.33 Between 1993 and 1998, 55 development guide plans were drawn up and these formed the final 1998 master plan.34

Another review of the concept plan was completed in 200135 and its broad strategies were translated into the 2003 master plan.36 Building on the preceding plan, the 2001 concept plan aims to make Singapore a “thriving world-class city”.37 Although the plan was originally scheduled to be reviewed after 10 years,38 a midterm review was conducted in 200639 and the resulting proposals were incorporated into the latest master plan released in 2008.40 The government began work on the next concept plan in 2009 and the revised blueprint was completed in 2011.41 The 2011 review incorporated public feedback on building a sustainable population and culminated in the Land Use Plan, which was released by the Ministry of National Development in 2013. This plan complements the Population White Paper published in January 2013 and outlines strategies to support population and economic growth, while ensuring a high-quality living environment for all Singaporeans.42

Released in 2014, Singapore’s latest master plan aims to create an inclusive, highly liveable, economically vibrant and green environment for all Singaporeans, focusing on six areas: housing, transport, economy, recreation, identity and public spaces.43



Author

Valerie Chew



References
1. Dale, O. J. (1999). Urban planning in Singapore: The transformation of a city. Shah Alam, Malaysia: Oxford University Press, pp. 14–15. (Call no.: RSING 307.1216 DAL); Ooi, G. L. (2004). Future of space: Planning, space and the city. Singapore: Eastern University Press, p. 99. (Call no.: RSING 307.1216095957 OOI); Khublall, N., & Yuen, B. (1991). Development control and planning law: Singapore. Singapore: Longman Singapore, p. 8. (Call no.: RSING 346.5957045 KHU); Lim, W. S. W. (1990). Cities for people: Reflections of a Southeast Asian architect. Singapore: Select Books, p. 171. (Call no.: RSING 711.40959 LIM)
2. Ooi, G. L. (2004). Future of space: Planning, space and the city. Singapore: Eastern University Press, p. 100. (Call no.: RSING 307.1216095957 OOI); Khublall, N., & Yuen, B. (1991). Development control and planning law: Singapore. Singapore: Longman Singapore, pp. 8–9. (Call no.: RSING 346.5957045 KHU); Tan, S. (1999). Home, work, play. Singapore: Urban Redevelopment Authority, p. 139. (Call no.: RSING 307.1216095957 TAN)
3. Tan, S. (1999). Home, work, play. Singapore: Urban Redevelopment Authority, p. 141. (Call no.: RSING 307.1216095957 TAN)
4. Ooi, G. L. (2004). Future of space: Planning, space and the city. Singapore: Eastern University Press, pp. 42–43. (Call no.: RSING 307.1216095957 OOI); Urban Redevelopment Authority. (2016, July 28). Our planning process. Retrieved 2016, October 28 from Urban Redevelopment Authority website: https://www.ura.gov.sg/uol/concept-plan/our-planning-process/our-planning-process.aspx
5. Dale, O. J. (1999). Urban planning in Singapore: The transformation of a city. Shah Alam, Malaysia: Oxford University Press, pp. 14–15. (Call no.: RSING 307.1216 DAL); Khublall, N., & Yuen, B. (1991). Development control and planning law: Singapore. Singapore: Longman Singapore, p. 8. (Call no.: RSING 346.5957045 KHU); Lim, W. S. W. (1990). Cities for people: Reflections of a Southeast Asian architect. Singapore: Select Books, pp. 171, 179, 190. (Call no.: RSING 711.40959 LIM); Tan, S. (1999). Home, work, play. Singapore: Urban Redevelopment Authority, p. 138. (Call no.: RSING 307.1216095957 TAN)
6. Dale, O. J. (1999). Urban planning in Singapore: The transformation of a city. Shah Alam, Malaysia: Oxford University Press, pp. 14–15. (Call no.: RSING 307.1216 DAL); Tan, S. (1999). Home, work, play. Singapore: Urban Redevelopment Authority, p. 138. (Call no.: RSING 307.1216095957 TAN)
7. Dale, O. J. (1999). Urban planning in Singapore: The transformation of a city. Shah Alam, Malaysia: Oxford University Press, pp. 20–21. (Call no.: RSING 307.1216 DAL); Khublall, N., & Yuen, B. (1991). Development control and planning law: Singapore. Singapore: Longman Singapore, p. 9. (Call no.: RSING 346.5957045 KHU); Tan, S. (1999). Home, work, play. Singapore: Urban Redevelopment Authority, p. 139. (Call no.: RSING 307.1216095957 TAN)
8. Tan, S. (1999). Home, work, play. Singapore: Urban Redevelopment Authority, p. 139. (Call no.: RSING 307.1216095957 TAN)
9. Dale, O. J. (1999). Urban planning in Singapore: The transformation of a city. Shah Alam, Malaysia: Oxford University Press, p. 72. (Call no.: RSING 307.1216 DAL); Khublall, N., & Yuen, B. (1991). Development control and planning law: Singapore. Singapore: Longman Singapore, pp. 9, 18. (Call no.: RSING 346.5957045 KHU); Tan, S. (1999). Home, work, play. Singapore: Urban Redevelopment Authority, p. 140. (Call no.: RSING 307.1216095957 TAN)
10. Dale, O. J. (1999). Urban planning in Singapore: The transformation of a city. Shah Alam, Malaysia: Oxford University Press, p. 73. (Call no.: RSING 307.1216 DAL); Khublall, N., & Yuen, B. (1991). Development control and planning law: Singapore. Singapore: Longman Singapore, p. 11. (Call no.: RSING 346.5957045 KHU); Tan, S. (1999). Home, work, play. Singapore: Urban Redevelopment Authority, p. 140. (Call no.: RSING 307.1216095957 TAN)
11. Dale, O. J. (1999). Urban planning in Singapore: The transformation of a city. Shah Alam, Malaysia: Oxford University Press, p. 76. (Call no.: RSING 307.1216 DAL); Ooi, G. L. (2004). Future of space: Planning, space and the city. Singapore: Eastern University Press, p. 43. (Call no.: RSING 307.1216095957 OOI); Khublall, N., & Yuen, B. (1991). Development control and planning law: Singapore. Singapore: Longman Singapore, pp. 12–14, 18. (Call no.: RSING 346.5957045 KHU)
12. Dale, O. J. (1999). Urban planning in Singapore: The transformation of a city. Shah Alam, Malaysia: Oxford University Press, p. 76. (Call no.: RSING 307.1216 DAL); Ooi, G. L. (2004). Future of space: Planning, space and the city. Singapore: Eastern University Press, pp. 43, 100. (Call no.: RSING 307.1216095957 OOI); Khublall, N., & Yuen, B. (1991). Development control and planning law: Singapore. Singapore: Longman Singapore, pp. 14, 188. (Call no.: RSING 346.5957045 KHU); Tan, S. (1999). Home, work, play. Singapore: Urban Redevelopment Authority, p. 141. (Call no.: RSING 307.1216095957 TAN)
13. Dale, O. J. (1999). Urban planning in Singapore: The transformation of a city. Shah Alam, Malaysia: Oxford University Press, p. 77. (Call no.: RSING 307.1216 DAL); Tan, S. (1999). Home, work, play. Singapore: Urban Redevelopment Authority, p. 141. (Call no.: RSING 307.1216095957 TAN); Khublall, N., & Yuen, B. (1991). Development control and planning law: Singapore. Singapore: Longman Singapore, pp. 40, 188. (Call no.: RSING 346.5957045 KHU)
14. Dale, O. J. (1999). Urban planning in Singapore: The transformation of a city. Shah Alam, Malaysia: Oxford University Press, p. 78. (Call no.: RSING 307.1216 DAL); Khublall, N., & Yuen, B. (1991). Development control and planning law: Singapore. Singapore: Longman Singapore, pp. 13, 18–19. (Call no.: RSING 346.5957045 KHU); Tan, S. (1999). Home, work, play. Singapore: Urban Redevelopment Authority, p. 141. (Call no.: RSING 307.1216095957 TAN)
15. Dale, O. J. (1999). Urban planning in Singapore: The transformation of a city. Shah Alam, Malaysia: Oxford University Press, p. 77. (Call no.: RSING 307.1216 DAL); Tan, S. (1999). Home, work, play. Singapore: Urban Redevelopment Authority, p. 142. (Call no.: RSING 307.1216095957 TAN)
16. Dale, O. J. (1999). Urban planning in Singapore: The transformation of a city. Shah Alam, Malaysia: Oxford University Press, p. 78. (Call no.: RSING 307.1216 DAL); Khublall, N., & Yuen, B. (1991). Development control and planning law: Singapore. Singapore: Longman Singapore, p. 19. (Call no.: RSING 346.5957045 KHU)
17. Chin, H. C. (1998). Urban transport planning in Singapore. In B. Yuen (Ed.), Planning Singapore: From plan to implementation. Singapore: Singapore Institute of Planners, p. 84. (Call no.: RSING 711.4095957 PLA); Dale, O. J. (1999). Urban planning in Singapore: The transformation of a city. Shah Alam, Malaysia: Oxford University Press, pp. 78–79. (Call no.: RSING 307.1216 DAL); Khublall, N., & Yuen, B. (1991). Development control and planning law: Singapore. Singapore: Longman Singapore, p. 42. (Call no.: RSING 346.5957045 KHU)
18. Dale, O. J. (1999). Urban planning in Singapore: The transformation of a city. Shah Alam, Malaysia: Oxford University Press, pp. 79–81. (Call no.: RSING 307.1216 DAL); Ooi, G. L. (2004). Future of space: Planning, space and the city. Singapore: Eastern University Press, p. 43. (Call no.: RSING 307.1216095957 OOI); Khublall, N., & Yuen, B. (1991). Development control and planning law: Singapore. Singapore: Longman Singapore, p. 42. (Call no.: RSING 346.5957045 KHU); Tan, S. (1999). Home, work, play. Singapore: Urban Redevelopment Authority, pp. 142-143. (Call no.: RSING 307.1216095957 TAN)
19. Dale, O. J. (1999). Urban planning in Singapore: The transformation of a city. Shah Alam, Malaysia: Oxford University Press, p. 30. (Call no.: RSING 307.1216 DAL); Ooi, G. L. (2004). Future of space: Planning, space and the city. Singapore: Eastern University Press, p. 41. (Call no.: RSING 307.1216095957 OOI)
20. Chin, H. C. (1998). Urban transport planning in Singapore. In B. Yuen (Ed.), Planning Singapore: From plan to implementation. Singapore: Singapore Institute of Planners, p. 84. (Call no.: RSING 711.4095957 PLA); Dale, O. J. (1999). Urban planning in Singapore: The transformation of a city. Shah Alam, Malaysia: Oxford University Press, p. 81. (Call no.: RSING 307.1216 DAL); Khublall, N., & Yuen, B. (1991). Development control and planning law: Singapore. Singapore: Longman Singapore, p. 43. (Call no.: RSING 346.5957045 KHU)
21. Chin, H. C. (1998). Urban transport planning in Singapore. In B. Yuen (Ed.), Planning Singapore: From plan to implementation. Singapore: Singapore Institute of Planners, p. 84. (Call no.: RSING 711.4095957 PLA); Dale, O. J. (1999). Urban planning in Singapore: The transformation of a city. Shah Alam, Malaysia: Oxford University Press, p. 81. (Call no.: RSING 307.1216 DAL); Ooi, G. L. (2004). Future of space: Planning, space and the city. Singapore: Eastern University Press, p. 43. (Call no.: RSING 307.1216095957 OOI)
22. Dale, O. J. (1999). Urban planning in Singapore: The transformation of a city. Shah Alam, Malaysia: Oxford University Press, pp. 81, 85. (Call no.: RSING 307.1216 DAL); Khublall, N., & Yuen, B. (1991). Development control and planning law: Singapore. Singapore: Longman Singapore, p. 44. (Call no.: RSING 346.5957045 KHU)
23. Chin, H. C. (1998). Urban transport planning in Singapore. In B. Yuen (Ed.), Planning Singapore: From plan to implementation. Singapore: Singapore Institute of Planners, p. 84. (Call no.: RSING 711.4095957 PLA); Dale, O. J. (1999). Urban planning in Singapore: The transformation of a city. Shah Alam, Malaysia: Oxford University Press, p. 132. (Call no.: RSING 307.1216 DAL); Tan, S. (1999). Home, work, play. Singapore: Urban Redevelopment Authority, pp. 143, 145. (Call no.: RSING 307.1216095957 TAN)
24. Chin, H. C. (1998). Urban transport planning in Singapore. In B. Yuen (Ed.), Planning Singapore: From plan to implementation. Singapore: Singapore Institute of Planners, pp. 84–85. (Call no.: RSING 711.4095957 PLA
25. Dale, O. J. (1999). Urban planning in Singapore: The transformation of a city. Shah Alam, Malaysia: Oxford University Press, p. 85. (Call no.: RSING 307.1216 DAL)
26. Dale, O. J. (1999). Urban planning in Singapore: The transformation of a city. Shah Alam, Malaysia: Oxford University Press, p. 84. (Call no.: RSING 307.1216 DAL); Khublall, N., & Yuen, B. (1991). Development control and planning law: Singapore. Singapore: Longman Singapore, pp. 209–210. (Call no.: RSING 346.5957045 KHU)
27. Dale, O. J. (1999). Urban planning in Singapore: The transformation of a city. Shah Alam, Malaysia: Oxford University Press, p. 85. (Call no.: RSING 307.1216 DAL); Tan, S. (1999). Home, work, play. Singapore: Urban Redevelopment Authority, pp. 38, 148. (Call no.: RSING 307.1216095957 TAN)
28. Living the next lap: Towards a tropical city of excellence. (1991). Singapore: Urban Redevelopment Authority, p.11. (Call no.: RSING 307.36095957 LIV); Tan, S. (1999). Home, work, play. Singapore: Urban Redevelopment Authority, p. 148. (Call no.: RSING 307.1216095957 TAN)
29. Dale, O. J. (1999). Urban planning in Singapore: The transformation of a city. Shah Alam, Malaysia: Oxford University Press, pp. 135–137. (Call no.: RSING 307.1216 DAL); Living the next lap: Towards a tropical city of excellence. (1991). Singapore: Urban Redevelopment Authority, pp. 7–8, 12, 16, 24, 28–35. (Call no.: RSING 307.36095957 LIV); Tan, S. (1999). Home, work, play. Singapore: Urban Redevelopment Authority, pp. 41, 45–46, 84–86. (Call no.: RSING 307.1216095957 TAN)
30. Dale, O. J. (1999). Urban planning in Singapore: The transformation of a city. Shah Alam, Malaysia: Oxford University Press, p. 135. (Call no.: RSING 307.1216 DAL); Tan, S. (1999). Home, work, play. Singapore: Urban Redevelopment Authority, pp. 41, 84–86. (Call no.: RSING 307.1216095957 TAN)
31. Urban Redevelopment Authority. (1991). Living the next lap: Towards a tropical city of excellence. Singapore: Urban Redevelopment Authority, pp. 14, 18. (Call no.: RSING 307.36095957 LIV); Tan, S. (1999). Home, work, play. Singapore: Urban Redevelopment Authority, pp. 41, 84–86. (Call no.: RSING 307.1216095957 TAN); Urban Redevelopment Authority. (2016, July 28). Master plan economy: A landscape of jobs and opportunities. Retrieved 2017, February 20 from Urban Redevelopment Authority website: https://www.ura.gov.sg/uol/master-plan/View-Master-Plan/master-plan-2014/master-plan/Key-focuses/economy/Economy
32. Urban Redevelopment Authority. (1991). Living the next lap: Towards a tropical city of excellence. (1991). Singapore: Urban Redevelopment Authority, pp. 14, 20. (Call no.: RSING 307.36095957 LIV); Tan, S. (1999). Home, work, play. Singapore: Urban Redevelopment Authority, p. 41. (Call no.: RSING 307.1216095957 TAN)
33. Khublall, N., & Yuen, B. (1991). Development control and planning law: Singapore. Singapore: Longman Singapore, p. 40. (Call no.: RSING 346.5957045 KHU); Tan, S. (1999). Home, work, play. Singapore: Urban Redevelopment Authority, p. 173. (Call no.: RSING 307.1216095957 TAN)
34. Tan, S. (1999). Home, work, play. Singapore: Urban Redevelopment Authority, pp. 148-149, 173. (Call no.: RSING 307.1216095957 TAN); Urban Redevelopment Authority. (2003). The Planning Act: Master plan written statement 2003, p. i. Retrieved from Urban Redevelopment Authority website: https://www.ura.gov.sg/-/media/User%20Defined/URA%20Online/master-plan/Master%20Plan%202003/Written%20Statement/Written-Statement%202003.pdf?la=en
35. Fernandez, W. (2001, July 21). S’pore in 50 years – thriving, world class and very green. The Straits Times, p. 8; Finalised concept plan little changed on good feedback. (2001, July 21). The Business Times, p. 8 Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
36. Government of Singapore. (2003). The planning act master plan written statement 2003, p. i. Retrieved from Urban Redevelopment Authority website: https://www.ura.gov.sg/-/media/User%20Defined/URA%20Online/master-plan/Master%20Plan%202003/Written%20Statement/Written-Statement%202003.pdf?la=en
37. Fernandez, W. (2001, July 21). S’pore in 50 years – thriving, world class and very green. The Straits Times, p. 8. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
38. Finalised concept plan little changed on good feedback. (2001, July 21). The Business Times, p. 8 Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
39. Tan, S. B. (2013). Long-term land use planning in Singapore. Retrieved 2016, October 28 from Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy website: http://lkyspp.nus.edu.sg/wp-content/uploads/2013/12/LKYSPP-Case-Study_-Landuse-Case.pdf
40. Government of Singapore. (2008). The planning act master plan written statement 2008, p. i. Retrieved 2016, October 28 from Urban Redevelopment Authority website: https://www.ura.gov.sg/-/media/User%20Defined/URA%20Online/master-plan/master-plan-2008/written-statementMP2008.pdf?la=en
41. Work begins on URA concept plan 2011. (2009, August 7). Channel NewsAsia. Retrieved from Factiva via NLB’s eResources website: http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/; Ministry of National Development. (2016). Concept Plan 2011 and MND’s Land Use Plan. Retrieved 2016, September 15 from Urban Redevelopment Authority website: https://www.ura.gov.sg/uol/concept-plan.aspx?p1=View-Concept-Plan&p2=Land-Use-Plan-2013
42. Ministry of National Development. (2016). Concept Plan 2011 and MND’s Land Use Plan. Retrieved 2016, September 15 from Urban Redevelopment Authority website: https://www.ura.gov.sg/uol/concept-plan.aspx?p1=View-Concept-Plan&p2=Land-Use-Plan-2013
43. Urban Redevelopment Authority. (2016, July 28). Master Plan 2014. Retrieved 2016, October 28 from Urban Redevelopment Authority website: https://www.ura.gov.sg/uol/master-plan.aspx?p1=view-master-plan&p2=master-plan-2014; Urban Redevelopment Authority. (2016, July 28). About Master Plan 2014. Retrieved 2016, October 28 from Urban Redevelopment Authority website: https://www.ura.gov.sg/uol/master-plan/view-master-plan/master-plan-2014/master-plan/Introduction



The information in this article is valid as at 2016 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic. 

Subject
Urban planning
Geography>>Population>>Urban Planning
History>>Asia>>Southeast Asia>>Singapore
Singapore--History
City planning--Singapore
Law and government>>National development>>City planning