A PROPOSED building in Sin Ming for funeral parlours has raised protests among some of the area's residents, who say their neighbourhood already has too many of them.
They told Transport Minister Raymond Lim during a dialogue yesterday that placing it near their residential blocks is not ideal, taking into account traditional superstitions which associate death and dying with bad luck.
Some also feared a drop in the value of their properties.
The site for the proposed building is an empty plot next to Bright Hill Temple. It is near Ai Tong School and residential areas, both HDB blocks and private condominiums.
The spirited debate on the issue dominated the 90-minute dialogue, held after a three-hour ministerial visit of the Thomson division by Mr Lim. He was accompanied by Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC MPs. including Mr Hri Kumar, the MP for the neighbourhood.
They visited hawkers and residents, and Mr Lim launched the Community Engagement Programme to bring Thomson schools and residents closer together through activities like ceramic workshops.
At the dialogue, at least seven people, out of a dozen or so who raised various issues, took to the microphone to express their dismay. They questioned the need for the building, given the area's many funeral parlours.
'Are we now turning the estate into a funeral hub?' asked Dr K. Premarani, secretary of Sin Ming Garden Residents Committee, prompting a burst of laughter.
The Yellow Pages website shows at least five funeral parlours in Sin Ming.
Dr Premarani also said she was disappointed after residents held a round of talks with the Urban Redevelopment Authority recently.
She said they were told the building would look like 'Disneyland', with a good-looking facade. It seemed the URA had made up its mind to go ahead with the project, she added.
However, Mr Kumar, who was involved in the discussions between residents and the URA, stressed that a decision had yet to be made.
'The dialogue is still continuing,' he told reporters after the session with residents, adding that residents' feedback will be considered and it is a 'healthy sign'.
During the discussion with residents, he said as he understands it, there was no 'Disneyland concept' but rather, the building would look 'dignified'.
Mr Kumar also pointed out that a piece of land beside the building at issue will be the site of light industrial development in the future.
These industrial buildings would block the funeral parlour from residents' view, he said.
Operators of funeral parlours prefer to be located in the central area to be accessible to bereaved families and their friends.
However, residents at the dialogue countered this, saying Sin Ming does not have an MRT station and is therefore not conveniently located.
Responding to their concerns, Mr Lim said the URA does not have a closed mind, and is still taking in feedback.
However, he warned residents to guard against what he called the Nimby - Not In My Back Yard - approach.
He related how a resident had asked the Land Transport Authority for a bus stop near his home, to make travelling more convenient. However, he was quick to add that the bus stop should not be outside his block of flats.
There are therefore many different interests, and these must be considered, Mr Lim added.
'We have to balance all these things,' he said, calling it part and parcel of living in a small, complex city like Singapore.