The Ministry for National Development (MND) has terminated the tender awarded to Eternal Pure Land for the development of a Chinese temple and columbarium at a site in Fernvale Link in Sengkang.
In a statement released by MND yesterday, the ministry said that a mutual termination agreement had been signed with Eternal Pure Land (EPL). The land will be open for a re-tender for its original planning intent of a Chinese temple development.
"Under the mutual termination agreement, the Government will refund EPL the full land premium ($5.2 million) and associated taxes and duties, which EPL has paid to Government for the site," said MND.
"This is only fair as the contract of the Fernvale Link site has been terminated. There is no other separate payment."
The award of the place of worship site at Fernvale Link to EPL in July last year was the first time such a site had been awarded to a company not affiliated to a religious organisation.
Many prospective residents of the Build-to-Order project Fernvale Lea, which is next to the site, were shocked when they learnt that they might have to live next to a columbarium, The Straits Times reported in December.
Some upset residents also demanded a refund from the Housing Board during a dialogue in January with Lam Pin Min, MP for Sengkang West.
One of the points made at the dialogue was about how HDB should have been more upfront about the Chinese temple housing a columbarium. Dr Lam said it was indicated in the Fernvale Lea brochure for the new flats.
Minister for National Development Khaw Boon Wan told Parliament later in January that there will be no commercial columbarium at the site.
In its statement yesterday, MND said that because the Government's intent has always been for the Fernvale Link site - zoned as a place of worship - to be awarded to a religious organisation or its affiliate for the development of a Chinese temple, "EPL's 2014 bid was not in line" with the Government's plan.
The ministry said 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.
EPL beat two other bidders for the site last year - the Taoist Peng Hong Association and the Xing Guang Maitreya Society.
The chairman of the Taoist Peng Hong Association, Tan Aik Hock, said the association will put in a bid once the re-tender opens. "But there will be no columbarium, which is everyone's concern," he said in Mandarin.
"We plan to have free medical consultations."
EPL had also intended to use the Fernvale Link site to test its automated columbarium system and operating model.
As part of the mutual termination agreement, the Government will allocate a small plot of land to EPL for a technology pilot project for columbarium services, given the merits and the need for such end-of-life services in Singapore's ageing society in the long run, the ministry said.
The site will be on land zoned for cemetery use and priced at market value based on columbarium use as determined by the Chief Valuer, MND said.
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