Hougang condo proposes to chop down 14 trees to install cycling path lamp posts, triggers protest from nearby resident

NParks is currently reviewing the condo developer's request to remove additional trees.

Winnie Li | May 19, 2023, 03:25 PM

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The Florence Residences, a condominium located at the intersection between Florence Road and Hougang Ave 2, gained traction online recently after its plan to remove 14 trees to make way for a cycling path was made public by a nearby resident.

According to a Facebook post by the resident, who goes by the username, Priscilla Lim, the condominium, which is still undergoing construction, was going to cut down several trees along Florence Road after chopping down a few others along Hougang Ave 2.

Screenshot via Facebook

In the accompanying photos, a notice could be seen tacked on several trees, which read, "We will be removing the tagged trees on May 15, 2023, to facilitate the new cycling path work. We appreciate your kind understanding."

At the end of the signage, a contact number of a representative from the condominium was given to members of the public who might wish to enquire further about the upcoming works.

In the comments section, Lim also voiced her strong disapproval of the plan, arguing that planting new trees to replace the old ones, which have already been there for more than 30 years, was not a satisfactory solution as it would take years before the new ones could provide a good canopy for pedestrians.

She also highlighted how the condominium's proposal was in contradiction with Singapore's plan to grow a million trees islandwide by the end of the decade and called upon her fellow citizens to escalate the matter to the authorities.

Mixed views from residents nearby

When Shin Min Daily News arrived at Florence Residences on the evening of May 14 and the morning of May 15, five trees could be seen being chopped down while the notice was put on nine others.

The Chinese paper observed that the existing walkway was more than 3m wide and appeared wide enough to be used by both pedestrians and cyclists at the same time. On the contrary, the trees on the side only took up a space half a metre wide.

A nearby resident agreed with the Chinese daily's assessment, contending that it was unnecessary to cut down the trees to make way for a cycling path as the pedestrian walkway was already wide enough to accommodate one.

However, a few other residents who live in the area did not take an issue with the condominium's proposal.

One of the residents told Shin Min she could understand why the old trees needed to be chopped down for urban development and believed the surroundings would not be greatly affected as long as new trees were planted afterwards.

"It is a good thing to widen the road so that vehicles can pass through more efficiently. We cannot let trees hold back the pace of urban development," she added.

Another private property resident also concurred that removing the trees would not affect him substantially as other parts of the road were still covered with tree canopy.

"I am fine [with the condominium's plan] as long as [the developer] will be planting new trees afterwards and bringing down the temperature in surrounding areas," he explained.

Response from condo developer

When Lim approached the representative from the developer of Florence Residence via Whatsapp, the representative clarified that the company needed to chop down the trees because it needed to install new cycling path lamp posts as per requirements from the Land Transport Authority's Development and Building Control Division.

Screenshot via Shin Min Daily News

The representative also claimed the company had sought approval from the National Parks Board (NParks) for the tree removal and reinstatement.

Nevertheless, the representative said that the company was still discussing the matter as it would need to cater to the feedback received as well.

Statement from NParks

In response to Mothership's queries, Oh Cheow Sheng, the group director of streetscape at NParks, confirmed that NParks approved the submission by the developer of Florence Residences in March 2020 to remove some street trees along Hougang Ave 2 and Hougang Ave 10.

These trees would be impacted by planned road improvement works, such as localised road widening and creation of new road junction.

However, in May 2023, the developer submitted a new proposal to remove additional trees along Florence Road to enhance the cycling path and associated lighting.

The developer had also put up signages on these trees to inform residents about their proposed plans.

As such, NParks is currently reviewing the request with the developer, as well as relevant agencies, and exploring options that would minimise the impact on these existing street trees and retain them where possible.

Oh said to Mothership that whenever NParks receives applications for tree removal, it will review the development plans to determine if there is a need.

NParks also explores the possibility of retaining the trees through design and engineering solutions without impacting the overall health and structural integrity of the trees.

If any tree has to be removed, NParks will assess if it is suitable for transplanting and identify appropriate transplanting locations.

Replacement planting will also be carried out for trees that are removed once development projects are completed.

In general, for affected areas managed by NParks, three trees will be planted for every tree that is removed, and this planting will be carried out in a tiered planting structure to enhance ecological connectivity and cool down the area.

Mothership has reached out to the developer of Florence Residences for comment and will update this article if they reply.

Top images via Priscilla Lim/Facebook