Tuesday, June 12, 2012

New guidelines on allowable spaces for religious activities

12 June 2012
New guidelines on allowable spaces for religious activities

The Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) and the Ministry of Community Development, Youth and Sports (MCYS) have jointly issued new guidelines on land development and use of space for religious activities. These guidelines will take immediate effect.

2. The Government acknowledges the need for space for religious activities by our many religious groups. Sites designated for Place of Worship (PW) developments are planned for and safeguarded in URA’s Master Plan, which however has to balance and accommodate the many other competing demands for land. As not all religious organisations are able to secure designated PW sites, many groups have increasingly, over the years, been conducting their religious activities in spaces not zoned for religious use, such as commercial or industrial buildings.

3. URA and MCYS studied the issue to see how some flexibility can be afforded to religious communities to meet their needs for religious space while at the same time, ensure that sites which are zoned as industrial and commercial in nature, retain their character and use as such. In July 2010, URA and MCYS clarified the guidelines for limited and non-exclusive religious use in commercial premises.

4. These latest guidelines provide for limited and non-exclusive use in industrial buildings. Religious use is now allowed in industrial premises zoned Business 1 (B1) on a non-exclusive and limited basis. Under this arrangement, religious groups will be able to conduct some religious activities in industrial space, without compromising the primary function and character of industrial developments. The new guidelines will provide greater clarity to both property owners and religious organisations in this respect.

5. In addition, the guidelines also provide for the maximum allowable plot ratio and storey height for sites zoned for Place of Worship to be incrementally relaxed. This gives religious organisations greater scope to expand their premises and grow their space to cater to their needs.

Guidelines on the Non-Exclusive and Limited Use of Industrial Premises for Religious Activities

6. Locations designated for worship/religious use are zoned “Place of Worship” in URA’s Master Plan. Religious activities should primarily be conducted at these sites. Similarly, sites zoned for "Industrial" use are intended to house industrial activities which support Singapore’s economic development. 

7. Under zoning regulations, religious activities are generally not allowed in industrial buildings. However, URA is prepared to exercise some flexibility and allow industrial premises zoned B1 to be used for religious activities, on a non-exclusive, limited basis. To preserve their primary function and character, industrial premises cannot be used exclusively for religious purposes at the expense of industrial activities. Religious use must be limited to certain days in a week and occupy only part of the industrial premises within the ancillary use quantum. These activities should not cause disturbances such as noise, traffic or parking problems to the public. Spaces within B1 industrial developments that can be allowed for non-exclusive and limited religious activities include:

i. Existing common facilities

- These include existing facilities that are allowable within the 40% ancillary quantum1 such as auditoriums, multi-purpose halls, theatres and training rooms that serve all the factory operators in the industrial development. The use of such spaces for religious activities shall not exceed two days a week including Saturdays and Sundays.

ii. Ancillary supporting spaces within each factory unit2

- These include meeting rooms and training rooms within each factory unit, when the factory is not in operation (for instance on Saturdays, Sundays, public holidays or at night). Ancillary supporting spaces should not exceed 40% of the factory unit size.

8. To ensure that the function and character of industrial premises are not compromised or displaced by religious activities, religious organisations and property owners must observe the following conditions:

i. The premises cannot be owned by or exclusively leased to religious organisations. The premises should be available to be rented out for other events such as industrial training, talks, conferences, etc.;

ii. There shall be no display of signage, advertisements or posters of the religious use at the premises or on the exterior of the building. The premises should not be furnished to resemble a worship hall and there shall be no display of religious symbols, icons or any religious paraphernalia at or within the venue when it is not in use by the religious organisation; and

iii. The building owner and the religious organisation shall take appropriate measures to ensure that the activities do not cause disturbances to the public or other occupants of the industrial premises.

9. Religious organisations that wish to use industrial premises for religious activities under the guidelines above will have to seek prior clearance from URA.  Details for submission requirements can be found on URA circular URA/PB/2012/07-DCG.

10. All religious organisations must comply with these guidelines should they wish to conduct religious activities within industrial premises. Religious organisations that are currently using industrial premises for religious activities will be granted a 3-year grace period from the date of this press release to comply with the guidelines. During the grace period, they can continue their current use, subject to the following conditions:

i. The use shall not cause any amenity problems or traffic problems such as noise, smell, fumes, parking problems, etc.;

ii. The use shall not spill outside the factory unit onto common areas or public areas;

iii. There shall be no intensification of religious use; and

iv. There shall be no unauthorised structures or tentages.

11. If complaints on such existing religious use are received during the grace period, the religious organisations will have to take immediate mitigating measures to address the concerns, failing which they will have to face enforcement actions. After the grace period, these organisations should either relocate to approved premises for Place of Worship or adapt their use to comply with the guidelines for non-exclusive and limited religious use.  

12. The 3-year grace period will not be applicable to religious organisations that commence the use of industrial premises for religious activities on an exclusive basis on or after the effective date of the new guidelines, and such unauthorised use will be subject to enforcement action.

Revised Guidelines on the Maximum Allowable Gross Plot Ratio and Storey Height for Place of Worship Sites

13. To provide dedicated spaces for religious activities, the URA safeguards sites for Places of Worship (PWs) in its Master Plan. These sites are distributed geographically in various parts of Singapore and are located within or close to residential towns to serve community needs.

14. To manage the scale and intensity of PW developments such that they relate to their surroundings, sites zoned for PW use are subject to Gross Plot Ratio (GPR) and storey height controls. To enable religious organisations to optimise the use of their sites and better meet growing space needs, the guidelines on maximum allowable GPR and storey height will be revised upwards as follows:

i. The GPR cap for PWs located at the fringe of landed and low-density housing areas will increase from GPR 1.0 to GPR 1.4;

ii. The GPR caps for PWs within HDB estates and areas with housing beyond GPR 1.4, industrial and other non-housing areas  will increase from GPR 1.4 to GPR 1.6;

iii. Further intensification beyond GPR 1.6 could be considered in exceptional cases if there are special circumstances that warrant exceptions to the guidelines. 

15. These new guidelines will apply to all PW developments. Religious organisations that wish to intensify their existing PW premises will have to seek prior planning approval from URA. Any intensification proposal will be assessed on a case-by-case basis, taking into consideration the local context, and whether the proposed intensification will adversely affect surrounding uses, for example, traffic, parking and noise problems. To balance the needs of the religious organisations and the interests of surrounding users, PW developments which are allowed intensification will be required to put in place measures to mitigate any disturbances that may arise from the intensification.

16. The GPR cap for PW developments within landed and low-density housing areas will remain at GPR 1.0. This is in keeping with the low-rise, low-density character of the area. In addition, local access roads within landed and low-density housing areas are already relatively narrow, with limited scope to support additional traffic volume and further intensification

17. In tandem with the increase in GPR caps, the allowable storey heights have also been adjusted to give the developments more design flexibility to accommodate the additional space needs. The revised storey height controls are as follows:

i. Storey height control for PWs located at the fringe of landed and low-density housing areas that front the main road or high density developments will increase from 3 storeys to 4 storeys, subject to detailed localised planning and traffic assessment;

ii. Storey height control for PWs with GPR control of more than GPR 1.4 and up to GPR 1.6 will increase from 4 storeys to 5 storeys, within the existing allowable envelop control of 25m; and

iii. An additional height allowance of up to 5m (i.e. within envelop control of 30m) can be considered for PWs with GPR control of more than GPR 1.4 and up to GPR 1.6 which provide above-ground car park, to facilitate the provision of car parking within the site. This is subject to detailed assessment of the impact of the increase in building height on the adjoining developments. If the increase in building height is expected to have severe impact on adjoining developments, the PWs will not be granted the additional 5m.

18. Where practicable, the Government will also consider making available suitable state properties as interim or short-term holding sites for PWs undergoing redevelopment, subject to planning considerations.

Continued and Consultative Measures to Address Space Needs

19. In addressing the space needs of religious organisations, the new guidelines complement those on the non-exclusive and limited use of commercial premises for religious activities announced in July 2010. This comprehensive package of measures will provide more options for religious organisations to find suitable spaces for their activities.

20. The Government continues to pay close attention to the changing needs of religious communities on the ground and to gather feedback on the issue. Different religious bodies were consulted in the development of these new guidelines. The Government will review or clarify guidelines consultatively to meet emerging needs, and where possible, allow for more flexible land use.


1 URA requires a minimum 60% of the total gross floor area (GFA) of the industrial development to be used for industrial activities (e.g. manufacturing, production and warehousing).  Common facilities and other ancillary uses such as ancillary offices, meeting/training rooms, lift lobbies, common corridors, M&E rooms, etc. can occupy up to 40% of the total GFA.

2 Factory units are to be used for industrial activities and counted as part of the predominant 60% industrial quantum.  However, within each factory unit, up to 40% of the factory unit GFA can be used for ancillary offices, meeting rooms, etc.

View the original article here

Source From URA

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