SINGAPORE: Addressing the shortage of food and beverage (F&B) and convenience retail options in several blocks within Sengkang, the Sengkang Town Council is seeking residents’ input on potential locations for deploying Vendcafes.
According to Mr Louis Chua, Workers’ Party MP for Sengkang GRC, their team has been collaborating closely with the HDB to address this issue by exploring avenues to enhance the availability of F&B and retail services in underserved areas of the estate.
In a recent Facebook post, he revealed that this includes the conversion of existing commercial units and the exploration of Vendcafe setups.
Mr Chua highlighted that although mature estates boast a plethora of heartland retail and F&B outlets, many blocks in Sengkang lack such amenities.
Due to design constraints, establishing full-scale coffeeshops in these areas seems unfeasible.
Nevertheless, based on residents’ feedback and technical evaluations by the HDB, the plan is to introduce Vendcafes in locations such as Rivervale Court, Rivervale Edge, Rivervale Gateway, and Compassvale Cape.
Residents can participate in the survey accessible via the OneService App under the ‘what say you?’ section.
Mr Chua urges residents to share their preferences and suggestions regarding the offerings at the Vendcafes.
Mr Chua and Sengkang MPs voice community concerns over retail and F&B accessibility
Mr Chua and his fellow Sengkang MPs, has consistently raised concerns regarding the limited availability of retail and F&B options across various blocks in Sengkang.
During a January debate on the Housing and Development (Amendment) Bill this year, Mr Chua advocated for his Sengkang constituents, shedding light on the dearth of coffee shops and everyday conveniences in their neighbourhood.
Despite having Rivervale Plaza and Rivervale Mall providing diverse retail offerings for locals, the entire Rivervale division has only one coffee shop and one convenience store, said Mr Chua.
He emphasized that for the elderly or those with limited mobility, acquiring meals or groceries often proves to be a challenging endeavour, necessitating the use of public or private transportation.
“The Workers’ Party has called for a revival of convenience and coffee shops where HDB should allocate a portion of void deck space to provide for at least one coffee shop for every two precincts, or perhaps we could also consider repurposing certain parts of our multi-storey car parks (MSCPs) which are underutilised to allow commercial spaces even if not for coffee shops.”
In response, Sim Ann, Senior Minister of State for National Development, clarified that HDB adheres to planning parameters for the inclusion of F&B and other essential amenities in line with the government’s town planning.
“In the case of Sengkang, we have been hearing feedback from residents and also progressively been injecting F&B or eating facilities, especially as new developments come up, ” Ms Sim told Mr Chua.
Louis Chua highlighted uneven distribution of hawker centres
During the parliamentary debate on 2 March this year, Mr Chua underscored the statistical disparity, citing the disproportionate concentration of hawker centres in areas like Jalan Besar and Tanjong Pagar, while regions such as Choa Chu Kang and Sengkang have none—a discrepancy he found unjustified.
Currently, Singapore hosts a total of 118 hawker centres, managed as follows: 27 by NEA, 80 by Town Councils (TCs), and 10 by private operators; one remains inactive.
“There is no real justification for some locations having a lot more hawker centres than others, ” said Mr Chua.
“As they are a key feature of Singapore’s unique culture and heritage and are Singaporeans’ preferred daily go-to place for affordable food, they should be built in every town centre. ”
“Hawker centres, like HDB shops, not only make heartland living vibrant, they also support small local businesses run by and employing residents living nearby. ”
He advocated for NEA-managed hawker centres to be a cornerstone in the planning of new estates, advocating for preferential lower rents for pioneering hawkers, subject to later adjustments based on traffic and sales progress.
In addition to Mr Chua, MPs like Mr Henry Kwek, Mr Xie Yao Quan, Mr Gan Thiam Poh from PAP, and WP MP Assoc Prof Jamus Lim sought clarification from the Minister of National Development on amenity accessibility and affordable food.
Ms Sim affirmed ongoing evaluation for Sengkang Town Centre development plans
Responding to queries, Ms. Sim clarified that commercial facility planning is demand-driven while considering operator feasibility.
In areas like Sengkang, URA and relevant agencies are evaluating plans to further develop the Sengkang Town Centre.
“Most residents can access commercial facilities with a food court or eating house within 400 metres from their homes or an approximately five to 10 minutes’ walk,” Ms Sim told the Parliament.
To facilitate affordable cooked food options within neighbourhoods, Ms Sim said HDB implemented the PQM framework in 2018, mandating six budget meals and a budget drink in new rental coffee shops, typically priced around $3.
She added that Operators who successfully tendered for HDB coffee shops under this framework typically provided budget food options averaging $3.
Extending the success of budget meals to older coffee shops through their triennial tenancy renewals starting May 2023, Ms Sim aims to cover nearly half of all coffee shops and all HDB towns by 2026.
“As a start, we will require these coffee shops to provide budget prices for four meals, instead of six, and two drinks as a condition for renewal.”
” The budget meal and drink prices will be benchmarked against economically-priced F&B offerings in nearby neighbourhood coffee shops. We will consult operators and remain flexible in assessing their proposed prices, bearing in mind business sustainability.”
“To help rental coffee shop operators and stallholders with this transition, they will be offered a rental discount of 5% off their renewal rents for one year, from the time the new requirements are in place, ” Ms Sim added.
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