Development guide plans

Singapore Infopedia


Development guide plans (DGPs) are detailed short- to medium-term land-use plans completed between 1993 and 1998 as part of a comprehensive review of the Master Plan 1985. The Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA), the national land-use planning agency, divided Singapore into 55 planning areas and drew up a DGP for each of these areas. A blueprint of the living, working and leisure environment in Singapore, the 55 DGPs together formed the overall Master Plan 1998, which was gazetted on 22 January 1999. The URA released the first of its 55 DGPs in 1993.1 The final DGP was released in July 1998 for the Punggol area and included detailed plans for Punggol 21.2

DGPs were first mooted in 1987 as a tool to review the Master Plan 1985 systematically and comprehensively.3 The Master Plan 1985 was primarily a documentation of changes that had taken place since the adoption of an earlier master plan in 1958, which was released by the Singapore Improvement Trust and to be replaced by the DGPs.4

The development of a new master plan, through the process of drawing up DGPs for every part of Singapore, reflected a major shift in thinking. The formulation of DGPs required urban planners to look ahead. They had to think about what they wanted Singapore to look like in the future and how they would achieve that vision.5

DGPs marked a bold step forward. They were comprehensively and proactively drawn up for various uses such as transportation, housing, industry, commerce, schools and open spaces. The plans specified the land-use zoning and development intensity that would be allowed.6 Each DGP was envisaged to cover a planning area with a population of around 150,000, served by a town centre.7 DGPs also represented a more open, systematic and transparent approach to land-use planning. They gave developers, homeowners and other interested parties a clear idea of the government’s planning intentions for specific plots of land in Singapore over the next 10 to 20 years.Hence the DGPs were valued for creating a more informed property market and facilitating development.9

In contrast, the master plans before the 1990s only provided information on existing or approved developments and not future planning intentions. Hence developers had to submit applications to the URA to assess whether their developments plans were permitted.10 Another marked difference was the participation of the private sector in developmental planning, which previously was the purview of government planners and involved the public through consultation sessions.11

After the government released the Concept Plan 1991, which set out the overall vision and broad directions, the URA started preparing the DGPs to implement the Concept Plan.12 The five planning regions marked out in the Concept Plan 1991 were subdivided into 55 planning areas, each with its own DGP, including one for the development of seven Southern islands like Sentosa and Lazarus Island. After the 55 DGPs were completed, they formed the Master Plan 1998, which was gazetted on 22 January 1999 to replace the Master Plan 1985.13

The subsequent master plan reviews in 2003 and 2008 took a different approach.14 Instead of 55 DGPs, detailed land-use plans were drawn up for each of the five planning regions. While these planning regions are still currently subdivided into the 55 areas for planning purposes, the term “development guide plan” is strictly used to refer to the plans that formed the Master Plan 1998. DGPs were not developed after Master Plan 1998, as it provided a good foundation for urban planning.15

DGPs were intended to achieve the following objectives: (i) ensure an optimal mix of land uses; (ii) plan for a balanced community; (iii) plan a hierarchy of commercial centres; (iv) develop an efficient transportation network; (v) create a quality living and working environment; (vi) provide development opportunities and controls to create visually interesting variations in the urban form; (vii) incorporate contingency reserves and flexibility of the Concept Plan in terms of land-use planning and implementation staging.16

On average, each DGP took about two years to complete.17 There were six stages in the process.18

Stage 1: Data collection
Collection of data to understand the planning area.19

Stage 2: Data analysis
Analysis of the collected data to assess the area’s strengths and weaknesses, and to establish the planning objectives and strategies for the area.20

Stage 3: Outline plan
Preparation of an outline plan detailing planning control guidelines such as land-use zoning. For selected DGPs, exhibitions and dialogue sessions on the outline plan were held to gather feedback from developers, industry organisations and the public.21

Stage 4: Draft master plan
Refining the outline plan into the draft master plan, and incorporation of useful feedback.22

Stage 5: Statutory exhibition
Public exhibition of the draft master plan to allow the public to lodge any objections. The exhibition must be held for a minimum of two weeks, as legislated by the Planning Act.23

Stage 6: Statutory master plan
Revision of the draft master plan after all objections from the public have been evaluated. Gazetting of the finalised master plan to replace the old master plan.24

Valerie Chew

1. Cheong-Chua Koon Hean, “Urban Land-Use Planning in Singapore: Towards a Tropical City of Excellence,” in Environment and the City: Sharing Singapore’s Experience and Future Challenges, ed. Ooi Geok Ling (Singapore: Institute of Policy Studies; Times Academic Press, 1995), 119 (Call no. RSING 363.70095957 ENV); Urban Redevelopment Authority (Singapore), Annual Report 1995/96 (Singapore: Author, 1996), 2, 15. (Call no. RCLOS 354.5957091 URASAR-[AR]); Sumiko Tan, Home, Work, Play (Singapore: Urban Redevelopment Authority, 1999), 162. (Call no. RSING 307.1216095957 TAN)
2. Colin Tan, “Punggol Vision Taking Shape,” Straits Times, 10 July 1998, 68. (From NewspaperSG)
3. S. Yeo, “Visualise It at the Micro Level,” Straits Times, 5 November 1994. (From Factiva via NLB’s eResources website); Ministry of National Development Singapore, Groundbreaking: 60 Years of National Development in Singapore (Singapore: Ministry of National Development, 2019), 22–23; Prasad Shekhu, “The Making of the New Singapore Master Plan,” in Planning Singapore: From Plan to Implementation, ed. Belinda Yuen (Singapore: Singapore Institute of Planners, 1998), 17. (Call no. RSING 711.4095957 PLA)
4. Belinda Yuen, ed., Planning Singapore: From Plan to Implementation (Singapore: Singapore Institute of Planners, 1998), 2. (Call no. RSING 711.4095957 PLA); Shekhu, “Making of the New Singapore Master Plan,” 22; “Mapping Out Land Use in S’pore,” Straits Times, 14 February 1996, 3. (From NewspaperSG)
5. Yuen, Planning Singapore, 3.
6. Urban Redevelopment Authority (Singapore), Annual Report 1997/98 (Singapore: Author, 1996), 10. (Call no. RCLOS 354.5957091 URASAR-[AR])
7. Urban Redevelopment Authority (Singapore), Downtown Core (Part) Planning Area: Planning Report 1995 (Singapore: Urban Redevelopment Authority, 1995), preface. (Call no. RSING 711.49095957 SIN)
8. Shekhu, “Making of the New Singapore Master Plan,” 17–18, 25.
9. Urban Redevelopment Authority (Singapore), Annual Report 1995/96, 3.
10. Yeo, “Visualise It at the Micro Level”; Remy Guo, Urban Development: From Urban Squalor to Global City (Singapore: Centre for Liveable Cities, 2016), 79–80; Peter G. Rowe and Limin Hee, A City in Green and Blue: The Singapore Story (Singapore: Springer Nature, 2019), 30.
11. Caroline Chan, “Private Architects Get a Say in Urban Planning,” Straits Times, 22 September 1990, 44; “Tap the Public’s Ideas, Too,” Business Times, 3 August 1989, 12. (From NewspaperSG)
12. Urban Redevelopment Authority (Singapore), Downtown Core (Central and Bayfront subzones), Straits View and Marina South Planning Areas: Planning Report 1997 (Singapore: Urban Redevelopment Authority, 1997), preface. (Call no. RSING 711.4095957 SIN); Urban Redevelopment Authority (Singapore), Planning Report 1995; Cheong-Chua, “Urban Land-Use Planning in Singapore,” 119
13. Urban Redevelopment Authority (Singapore), Annual Report 1997/98 (Singapore: Author, 1996), 3, 12; Rowe and Hee, City in Green and Blue, 30, 143–44; Rav Dhaliwal, “New Quality Beaches to Be Created in Southern Islands,” Straits Times, 3 May 1996, 3. (From NewspaperSG)
14. Urban Redevelopment Authority (Singapore), The Planning Act: Master plan Written Statement 2003 (Singapore: Urban Redevelopment Authority, 2003), i. (From NLB’s Web Archive Singapore); Urban Redevelopment Authority (Singapore), The Planning Act: Master Plan Written Statement 2008 (Singapore: Urban Redevelopment Authority, 2008), i. (From NLB’s Web Archive Singapore)
15. Planning Department, Singapore, Revised Master Plan: Written Statement (Singapore: Ministry of National Development, Planning Dept., 2003), i (Call no. RSING 711.4095957 SIN); Rowe and Hee, City in Green and Blue, 30.
16. Shekhu, “Making of the New Singapore Master Plan,” 17–18, 25.
17. “Mapping Out Land Use in S’pore,” Straits Times, 14 February 1996. 3. (From NewspaperSG)
18. Sumiko Tan, Home, Work, Play (Singapore: Urban Redevelopment Authority, 1999), 173. (Call no. RSING 307.1216095957 TAN); Yeo, “Visualise It at the Micro Level.”
19. Shekhu, “Making of the New Singapore Master Plan,” 18–20, 26.
20. Shekhu, “Making of the New Singapore Master Plan,” 18–20, 26.
21. Shekhu, “Making of the New Singapore Master Plan,” 18–20, 26.
22. Shekhu, “Making of the New Singapore Master Plan,” 18–20, 26.
23. Shekhu, “Making of the New Singapore Master Plan,” 18–20, 26.
24. Shekhu, “Making of the New Singapore Master Plan,” 18–20, 26.

The information in this article is valid as at May 2021 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.


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