The first thing savvy property buyers do when researching a unit, house or project they’re interested in is to check the URA Master Plan. Created by the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA), the Master Plan is the “statutory land use plan which guides Singapore’s development in the medium term over the next 10 to 15 years”. This means that property buyers can look at the Master Plan for an indication of future developments that may impact property value and quality of living.
Short of looking into an actual crystal ball, knowing how to read the URA Master Plan can help you locate the ideal home — be it for own stay or for capital appreciation/investment. Trouble is, reading the colour-coded plan can be daunting for first-timers. This guide helps you easily understand the Master Plan by zooming in on what you need to look out for.
#1: Plot Ratio
Defined as the permissible development intensity of a specified land parcel, the plot ratio determines the maximum gross floor area (GFA) of any development on that land parcel. This is the formula to calculate the maximum GFA from plot ratio:
GFA in square feet = Plot ratio x Site area in square feet
To check the plot ratio of a specific development or land parcel, simply search for the development/area name in the URA Master Plan, and look at the number assigned on the development/land parcel. (Land parcels in more undeveloped or yet-to-be-developed areas do not have assigned plot ratios.)
As a rule of thumb, if two developments have roughly the same land area but vastly different plot ratios, this means that one will be a lot denser or taller than the other. For example, The [email protected] has a plot ratio of 8.4, whereas the neighbouring Tanjong Pagar Plaza has a plot ratio of only 3.5 (see screenshot below). Sure enough, The [email protected] appears to be a far denser development than Tanjong Pagar Plaza. Here are the stats for both developments for a closer comparison:
The [email protected]
Plot ratio: 8.4
Land area: Approx 23,700 sq m or 255,105 square feet
Maximum GFA: 8.4 x 255,105 = 2,142,882 square feet
Highest storey: 50
Total residential units: 1,848
Tanjong Pagar Plaza
Plot ratio: 3.5
Land area: Approx 28,700 sq m or 308,924 square feet
Maximum GFA = 3.5 x 308,924 = 1,081,234 square feet
Highest storey: 27
Total residential units: 1,022
What plot ratio means to the property buyer
If you’re looking to buy a unit that’s facing an empty plot of land, you can avoid the unpleasant surprise of your unblocked view being obscured by a taller development in a few year’s time just by looking at the plot ratio assigned to that particular land parcel. Take note that, in many areas, additional building height controls may limit the maximum storeys of buildings. For example, HDB blocks in Kaki Bukit are limited to 15 storeys because of the nearby Paya Lebar Airbase.
#2: White sites
White sites are areas which are intended to be used as a combination of commercial, hotel, residential, sports and recreational spaces. Bidding developers for white sites need to submit detailed proposals to URA, who then decides on the winning bid based on how the proposed development fits into and benefits the area. So, white sites tend to be/become mixed-use developments of higher value; if you’re hoping that your property will increase in value as time goes by, having a white site in the vicinity definitely works out in your favour.
An example of a white site, as you can see above, is this China Square Central development at South Bridge Road and Cross Street. White sites are more predominantly found in the Core Central Region (CCR), and they’re harder to come across in the Rest of Central Region (RCR) and Outside Central Region (OCR).
#3: Civic & Community Institution
These are pretty straightforward — they’re areas intended to be used as civic or community facilities. If you’re lucky, you might get a community centre or childcare centre, but these might also be reformative centres, such as the Singapore Girls’ Home and halfway houses. Police stations and fire stations are also classified under Civic & Community Institutions.
Because of the uncertainty that surrounds an undeveloped site that’s zoned as a Civic & Community Institution, property buyers tend not to favour projects that are next the site, or stacks directly facing it.
#4: Place of Worship
Marked in the same red colour as Civic & Community Institution sites on the URA Master Plan but with an additional letter ‘W’, Place of Worship sites are your churches, mosques, and temples. With these sites, URA states that “Praying area shall be the predominant use and shall be at least 50% of the total floor area of the development” – which means that 50% of the grounds can be allocated to other purposes.
If you recall, there was an incident back in 2015 when it was announced that there would be a columbarium built next to a Sengkang HDB Build-to-Order (BTO) housing project. The columbarium would be “integrated with a Chinese temple”, so technically speaking, the site qualifies as a Place of Worship. Needless to say that residents were not happy.
Columbarium or not, places of worship are often associated with noise and smoke pollution, as well as traffic congestion during days of worship and festivals — buyers take note.
#5: Business 1 vs Business 2
Both Business 1 and 2 sites are areas intended to be used for clean industry, light industry, warehouse, public utilities, and telecommunication uses. Business 1 sites cater to companies which do not have nuisance buffers of >50m imposed upon them (computer software development, printing and publishing, etc), and Business 2 sites cater to those which do have nuisance buffers imposed on them (biotech, vehicle repair, gas installations, etc).
This land parcel at Tai Seng Industrial Estate, for example, is zoned as Business 2.
And this other one, also at Tai Seng, is zoned as Business 1.
As a general rule of thumb, most folks would prefer to have Business 1 sites rather than Business 2 sites near their property.
#6: Business Park
Business Parks are zones where multiple office buildings are built in a cluster, away from the Core Central Business District.
Other than Changi Business Park (shown above), there’s also International Business Park, Seletar Aerospace Park, Tuas Biomedical Park, and Cleantech Park in Jurong West.
Also, don’t forget about the upcoming Business Park that the government plans to build in Punggol. The Punggol Digital District will focus on technological sectors of business and create an estimated 28,000 jobs. Buyers are hoping the new business hub will drive demand for property rental and boost property value in the vicinity.
Other notable sites on the URA Master Plan
- Sports and Recreation: stadiums are great to have nearby if you foresee yourself using them, but they might also result in noise and light pollution if your unit is right next to the facility
- Utility: these substations, telephone exchanges and water pump stations might be unsightly to some
- Health and Medical Care: smaller sites can mean a senior care home, bigger sites tend to be hospitals or polyclinics
- Educational Institutions: smaller sites tend to be allocated to primary schools. Ask anyone living next to one; 1,000 screaming children is noise pollution
- Reserve Site: these are wildcards as their uses have not been determined yet
- Special Use: military camp, airbases, etc
You can access the URA Master Plan here.
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