Should the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew’s house in Oxley Road be demolished, the Government is unlikely to allow the site to be redeveloped in a way that would diminish its historical significance.
The Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) and National Heritage Board (NHB) said this in a joint statement yesterday, in response to a commentary in The Straits Times last Friday suggesting greater public involvement when selecting buildings for conservation and preservation.
The late Mr Lee had stated in his will his wish for his house to be demolished to avoid it becoming a museum. But because his daughter, Dr Lee Wei Ling, has decided to continue living there, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong told Parliament on April 13 that there is no need for the Government to make any decision now on the property.
In their statement yesterday, the URA and NHB said the Government will take into consideration very seriously the wishes of the late Mr Lee regarding the future plans for the house. “In view of the historical significance of the property, if a decision is made to allow for the demolition of the house, the Government is likely to disallow the site to be redeveloped in a way that would diminish its historical significance, for example, for commercial or intensive residential development.”
The agencies also noted that the area is planned as a low-rise residential precinct and zoned two-storey mixed landed. The Planning Act requires building owners to seek the URA’s approval before they carry out work to demolish, redevelop or make additions and alterations to their properties.
Under the Preservation of Monuments Act, the NHB draws advice from its panel of experts comprising individuals from diverse backgrounds in the people, private and public sectors. The NHB also engages owners to seek their support to preserve their properties.
In the ST commentary, (“Mr Lee’s house a chance for due process”), Mr Terence Chong and Mr Yeo Kang Shua wrote that “a state agency must decide (if it is a heritage-significant house) to trigger legal protection for the house”, citing the URA and NHB as the two agencies with the “legal tools and institutional capacity” to ensure that due process is carried out.
They also acknowledged the “emotional dilemma” such a decision would cause to loved ones.