Residents surprised by columbarium plan

A NEW columbarium expected to come up in Sengkang West in 2016 to provide a resting place for the dead has already stirred up unease among the living.

Australian funeral services company Life Corporation won a tender called by the Housing Board in July to develop a Chinese temple integrated with a columbarium at a land parcel in Fernvale Link.

The proposed site sits squarely next to an upcoming Build-To- Order residential area, Fernvale Lea, which will have residents moving in early next year.

Life Corp, the parent company of Singapore Funeral Services, said the space will be used to run funeral services, columbarium space and associated services.

Life Corp CEO Simon Hoo said details of the project were still being finalised. “We are still working with the architect on the design for the look and feel of it. We expect it to be completed in 2016,” he told The Straits Times earlier this month.

News of the integrated columbarium took some future residents by surprise. They said they were unaware that the site would include such a facility. They also claimed that the development booklet of the area they were issued with showed the site was reserved for a Chinese temple.

“If the plan was to have a columbarium there, then it should be written properly in the booklet,” said human resources executive Josephine Soh, 28, who is moving into Fernvale Lea next year. “I know I should respect the dead, but I don’t wish to live near a columbarium knowing that the dead are resting there,” she said.

Others wondered how resale prices of their flats might be affected. Property executive Rite Jailani, 33, said: “The location is already not that good. It’s not near the LRT or coffee shops. Now I’m scared the value of the flat will drop if people know it’s near a columbarium.”

In response to queries by The Straits Times, the HDB and the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) said the town map and site plan issued included notes which indicated that “places of worship may include columbarium as an ancillary use”.

They added that the space occupied by the columbarium should be out of sight from surrounding buildings and not exceed 20 per cent of the total gross floor area of the building.

There are a few columbariums located near residential districts, such as Yishun Columbarium in Yishun Ring Road.

But some still feel that such facilities should not be near where people live. IT project manager Loh Hon Chun, 33, who has lived in Sengkang West for five years, said: “My understanding of a columbarium is that it’s somewhere in a forested area, like Mount Vernon, not near somewhere with high resident density.”

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