Thursday, 16 February 2017

Sungei Road flea market to shut for good on 10 July 2017

End of the road for last free hawking zone
Sungei Road flea market to make way for future homes
By Melody Zaccheus, The Straits Times, 15 Feb 2017

The Sungei Road flea market will cease to exist come July.

The authorities issued a multi-agency statement yesterday which gave July 10 as the last day of operations for the approximately eight-decade-old flea market.

Singapore's last free hawking zone will be prepared "to facilitate future residential development use".

Yesterday's government statement was issued jointly by the National Environment Agency (NEA), Ministry of National Development, Ministry of Social and Family Development, Workforce Singapore, National Heritage Board (NHB) and the Singapore Police Force.

Singapore Heritage Society president Chua Ai Lin said she is disappointed that the around 200 vendors have not been provided with an alternative site.

"We will be losing the sense of an organically formed flea market. A whole community will be dispersed and can no longer congregate as second-hand sellers," said Dr Chua .

Many netizens have also expressed dismay at the news.

In 2011, the market was halved to make way for the construction of the new Jalan Besar MRT station. The site had been zoned for residential with commercial use in the 2003 Master Plan.

The authorities acknowledged the site's long history and that it holds special memories for many Singaporeans.

However, the government statement added that "over time, the nature of the site has changed, as reflected in both the profile of vendors and buyers, and type of goods sold".

The authorities have had to conduct checks on the sale of prohibited goods regularly, previous media reports said.

The Government said that street trades "should only be allowed to continue in designated venues like trade fairs and flea markets, rather than on a permanent basis".

The statement said 11 rag-and-bone men who were previously issued permits to operate at Sungei Road will be offered the option of operating lock-up stalls at Golden Mile Food Centre and Chinatown Market.

Rental will be waived for the first year and a 50 per cent rental rebate off the subsidised rent will be given for the second year. An inter-agency briefing will be held for them on Friday.

The 11 men are from a pool of 31 rag-and-bone men who operated on the streets and were excluded from the Government's street hawker resettlement programme to purpose-built markets and hawker centres back in the 1970s and 1980s "because of their chosen trade".

According to NHB's research, the flea market dates back to the 1930s. It was later known as the Thieves Market, offering bargains for second-hand and vintage goods.

Meanwhile, vendors who are registered with the police under the Secondhand Goods Dealers Act will need to provide a new business address if they wish to continue to ply their second-hand goods trade elsewhere.

Mr Koh Ah Koon, 76, the president of the Association for the Recycling of Second Hand Goods representing about 70 vendors, said: "At least 80 per cent of us are elderly folk in our 60s, 70s and 80s who depend on our stalls for income. We hope we will be able to keep this traditional trade and way of displaying our wares alive."

In the statement, the authorities said social service offices will facilitate financial assistance and Workforce Singapore will provide employment services under existing schemes to eligible vendors. They also noted that the NHB has conducted research and documentation efforts on the market and its vendors to preserve memories of the site.

The authorities said notices were put up at the market yesterday to inform the vendors of the closure.

Preserve icons that build history and define culture

I grew up in a shophouse in Weld Road and, as a child, used to run among the lanes that formed the Thieves Market, which was much bigger then.

We have lost so many landmarks over the years that I feel displaced as a citizen.

Now, the Sungei Road flea market is the next icon to bite the dust ("Sungei Road flea market to make way for future homes"; Feb 15).

The market has been around for about 80 years and has been a constant magnet for peddlers and those who come to browse and buy.

I understand that, in this land-scarce country, we cannot afford to be too sentimental with regard to how we use our limited resources.

However, we have to bear in mind that a society is defined by its culture, culture is strongly influenced by its history, and history is built, in part, by icons.

I appeal to the National Environment Agency and the agencies involved to rethink the decision to close the Sungei Road flea market.

What is the point of closing it down, forcing the hawkers out, then documenting and preserving memories of the site?

Wong Wen Tsung (Dr)
ST Forum, 17 Feb 2017

Balancing competing land-use demands requires trade-offs

It will always be a challenge to strike a balance between retaining iconic landmarks and using the land for residential purposes ("Preserve icons that build history and define culture" by Dr Wong Wen Tsung; Feb 17).

Finding the right balance is never easy. There is a constant need to provide residential housing estates, childcare centres, schools, hospitals, parks, transport amenities, eateries, markets and eldercare facilities.

This cannot be done without trade-offs, due to our finite land resources.

Where possible, the Government tries to preserve landmarks that are of national importance and of historic, cultural, traditional, archaeological, architectural or symbolic significance.

While the Sungei Road flea market may give Singaporeans a sense of history and culture, it is not of national importance.

Conservation is more than just preserving a landmark. There must be a retention of the inherent spirit and original ambience of the historic place.

The "Thieves Market", with its makeshift stalls and transient hawkers, is no different from other flea markets managed by town councils.

The various land-use demands should be considered comprehensively, and a holistic approach adopted.

The question is whether Singapore should set aside more land for housing or use it to keep more iconic landmarks. Then, there are environmental needs to consider as well. Such is the dilemma of urban planning and balancing competing urban interests. The key is to prioritise.

Keeping Singapore a liveable and sustainable city may entail unpopular measures. But one cannot argue with the strategic needs of land-scarce Singapore.

Francis Cheng
ST Forum, 23 Feb 2017

Sungei Road Hawking Zone To Close After Last Day Of Operation On 10 July 2017
Sungei Road Flea Market

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