A NEW tender for the development of a Chinese temple at Sengkang will be called, after the Government and a private developer said they will terminate a previous agreement between them.
As part of the termination, the Ministry of National Development (MND) will refund Eternal Pure Land (EPL) in full what it paid for the land - about $5.2 million plus taxes and duties.
It will also release a 0.1ha plot of land along Tampines Road north of Paya Lebar Airbase, zoned for cemetery use, to the company for a "pilot project" for columbarium services.
The ministry said that this was the first time a place of worship site had been awarded to a firm not affiliated with a religious organisation and that it was not in line with the Government's plan for the site.
It added that EPL "understood that its bid was not congruous with the planning intent" for a place of worship site, and agreed to terminate the awarded contract by mutual consent.
A group of residents of Fernvale Lea, the Build-to-Order flats next to the plot, had protested against the decision to allow a columbarium to be built on the site, arguing that the brochures they received made no mention of it.
They also questioned the decision to award a commercial firm the tender when it involved land designated for religious use.
National Development Minister Khaw Boon Wan said in January in Parliament that the Housing Board officers had assumed the company was working for a religious group. He had promised to "unwind" the situation.
Life Corporation, EPL's parent company, said in a statement that it agreed to the termination on "mutually acceptable terms".
The company will receive a full refund of the tender price along with a refund of associated taxes and duties which EPL had paid for the site.
It also announced that a submission to develop an automated columbarium at the land issued to it has been approved by the Government. This will be done through an affiliated entity, Life Corporate Services.
Such a project will maximise land use efficiency and reduce inconvenience to surrounding users, according to the Urban Redevelopment Authority.
Sengkang West MP Lam Pin Min said in a Facebook post yesterday: "Sengkang West residents' concerns have been addressed by MND."
The plot of land at the heart of the saga will be opened up for re-tender for the development of a Chinese temple, which could still be able to operate ancillary columbariums, as allowed for under existing rules.
Eternal Pure Land had topped two other bidders for the site last year - the Taoist Peng Hong Association and the Xing Guang Maitreya Society.
Yesterday, MND said that they will open the site to a fresh tender, a piece of news that the chairman of the Taoist Peng Hong Association, Mr Tan Aik Hock, was happy to hear.
He said that the association will put in a bid once the re-tender opens. It had placed an unsuccessful bid of $4 million last year.
"But there will be no columbarium, which is everyone's concern," he said in Mandarin.
"We plan to have free medical consultations."
This article was first published on May 8, 2015.
Get a copy of The Straits Times or go to straitstimes.com for more stories.