Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Noise, Fumes & Parking

Source : The Straits Times, Sep 9, 2008


For some residents, having pubs, eateries nearby signals the end of peace and quiet

A PROPOSAL to tweak the rules to make it easier for restaurants, pubs and shops to offer live entertainment and do on-site cooking is making residents of private housing estates nervous.

Food and entertainment strips like are popular but some residents find it all too much to stomach. -- ST PHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN

To them, relaxed planning guidelines will bring noise, parking woes and oily kitchen fumes to their quiet neck of the woods.

The Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) announced on Aug 29 that it was considering cutting the red tape for businesses, especially those seeking to set up shop in private housing estates.

It is collecting views from the public on the move, aimed at injecting vibrancy into these areas.

But it appears that some residents are not keen on having buzz.

The Straits Times last week visited six housing estates with entertainment and dining strips to ask residents what they thought of entertainment and dining options on their doorstep.

In Thomson Ridge off Upper Thomson Road, residents are unhappy about the noise that patrons of the nearby bars and restaurants make.

Long-time resident Janet Chew, whose house is next to the bar Liquid Kitchen, grumbled: 'Normally it's already very bad, very noisy. But it's worse during football matches or during events like the Beijing Olympics! They shout and scream, as if they're doing a mini Kallang Roar.'

In Jalan Legundi off Sembawang Road, foodies flocking to the eateries there are causing a parking problem, especially on weekends.

Resident R.V. Raju, 53, said these visitors are 'a nuisance', parking on both sides of the road and giving grief to residents wanting to get in and out of their driveways.

The problem eased when the URA created paid parking lots, but residents fear the nightmare will return if the relaxed guidelines spawn new eating places.

Parking is also an issue in Serangoon Gardens, with what resident Jonathan Lim, 47, describes as 'havoc' and 'unbearable honking' at the junction of Serangoon Gardens Way and Yio Chu Kang Road.

'I feel like my neighbourhood has been invaded,' the businessman moaned.

But some people welcome the buzz.

Ms Serene Wong, a teacher in her 30s, said she liked having more food and entertainment options in her Sunset Way neighbourhood.

But she suggested compromises, such as allowing live music only during weekends.

Businesses near residential areas said they would offer more entertainment and food choices if the rules are relaxed.

For instance, Ms Apple Soh, the manager of Perle Noire Oyster & Grill Bar in Siglap, said bringing in light jazz singers is an option.

Aspiring entrepreneurs are also looking out for the results of the public consultation.

Ms Melissa Li, 24, who hopes to set up a food shop by the end of this year, said: 'As it is, there are many approvals I have to apply for, so one fewer would be good.'

Most business owners were willing to do the necessary to accommodate residents.

Restaurateurs in Teck Chye Terrace off Upper Serangoon Road, for instance, have responded to parking woes and jams in the area: They allow customers to double-park along the road, but require them to leave slips of paper with their cellphone numbers on the dashboard, so when a customer needs to drive off, he calls the person blocking his way to move his car.

Meanwhile, Mr Colin James, the manager of Liquid Kitchen, said he has tried to control noise levels by seating big groups near the road and moving them indoors after 11pm.

But some residents say this is not enough. Mrs Chew said: 'We want peace and quiet. That's why we live in landed property in the first place.'


Give your feedback online

THE URA is gathering feedback on the proposed review of planning guidelines for restaurants, food shops and pubs in non-HDB shophouses near residential areas.

The three areas being reviewed:

# For restaurants: Should 'live' light entertainment be allowed?

# For food shops: Should businesses with takeaway food counters be automatically allowed to have on-site cooking facilities?

# For pubs: Should pubs on the fringe of residential areas be allowed to offer 'live' music and performances, and what kinds?

The public has until Sept 30 to give feedback at www.ura.gov.sg.

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