New URA guidelines on allowable spaces for religious activities (12 June 2012)

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.


Source: URA website

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