SINGAPORE - The Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) and Ministry of Health (MOH) have introduced guidelines limiting the amount of commercial space that can be used by medical clinics.
Under the new cap, the total gross floor area (GFA) for medical clinics within a commercial building cannot exceed 3,000 sq m or 20 per cent of the total floor area approved for commercial use, whichever is lower.
The changes became effective yesterday.
In a circular posted on its site, the URA said it "has received an increasing number of planning applications for new private medical centres within commercial developments".
Commercial buildings could therefore run the risk of becoming de facto medical centres, which should be located only on sites zoned for health and medical care use.
The MOH's online listing of licensed health-care institutions shows there are more than 500 clinics around the central Orchard Road shopping belt alone, with several in malls such as Paragon, Pacific Plaza and Wisma Atria.
A URA spokesman told The Straits Times that "a trend of applications for larger private medical clinics within commercial developments" has emerged recently, with 10 such in the past two years. He added: "Such proposals could lead to the conversion of more than 20 per cent of commercial space into medical clinics, displacing other important commercial uses such as for shops, eateries and offices, etc, which meet different needs."
The cap will help prevent that, and also ensure that commercial buildings have a good mix of other commercial uses, the URA said. The guidelines leave some room for certain exceptions.
The 20 per cent GFA cap does not, for instance, apply to medical clinics located in shophouse developments and Housing Board shops, where it may be too restrictive. For these developments, the GFA for medical clinic use should not exceed 3,000 sq m.
Existing medical clinics within a commercial development that have already exceeded the cap will also be allowed to remain and not be required to reduce their total floor area. Operators who wish to set up medical clinics in commercial buildings are now required to submit a planning application to the URA for evaluation.
There will, however, be measures to help operators setting up clinics in buildings with few existing ones.
SLP International Property Consultants' executive director of research and consultancy, Mr Nicholas Mak, said: "Creating medical space is one way for some developers to maximise the real estate value of upperfloor retail space.
"An oversupply of such medical units in office buildings and shopping centres can lead to wastage of space if the units are eventually not used for their intended purposes."
This article was first published on Dec 24, 2014. Get a copy of The Straits Times or go to straitstimes.com for more stories.