Permit needed for 'mini-fair' too: NEA

Permit needed for 'mini-fair' too: NEA

Does a "mini-fair" in a public space need a permit from the National Environment Agency (NEA)?

Yes, said NEA's lawyer, Isaac Tan, in a district court yesterday, the second day of a trial to decide if the Workers' Party town council had flouted the law when it organised a temporary fair from Jan 9 to Jan 30 without a permit.

Said Mr Tan: "(The law) makes no distinction between 'mini-fairs' and what has been termed for the purposes of contrast as 'large fairs'. (It) only talks about temporary fairs, with no reference to size."

He added: "A suggestion that a 'mini-fair' would not be subject to a permit requirement under Section 35 is misconceived."

Under Section 35 of the Environmental Public Health Act, a permit is required for "any temporary fair, stage show or other such function or activity".

Mr Tan was countering a point made on Tuesday by Peter Low, the lawyer for Aljunied-Hougang-Punggol East Town Council (AHPETC), whose chairman is Sylvia Lim.

He had argued that a permit was not needed as the Chinese New Year fair was an "event" or a "mini-fair", not a "trade fair" or a "temporary fair".

The event, which was held at a 560 sq m space between blocks 811 and 814, Hougang Central, had five stalls selling festive decorations, cookies and potted plants.

To counter Mr Tan's argument yesterday, Mr Low pointed out that AHPETC had approached NEA to ask if a permit was required for the event.

This act, he argued, proved the town council had no intention of breaking any laws.

The town council had initially turned down the application forms NEA had sent via e-mail, saying the forms for a "trade fair permit" and a "trade fair foodstall licence" were "unsuitable" because it was organising and operating the event on its own.

The reason for its move, said Mr Low, is that under the Town Councils Act and the Town Councils (Use of Common Property Rules), it is "not the business of the town council to engage in commercial activity".

When NEA insisted, the town council submitted the forms after striking off the words "trade fair" and substituting them with "event". The application was not approved because specified documents were not submitted.

If found guilty, the town council can be fined up to $1,000. For subsequent convictions, the maximum punishment is a fine not exceeding $4,000 and a jail term of up to three months.

The trial continues.

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