How I met my neigbours

(or why I invited the Minister to lie on my bed)

My 24 neighbours and I wrote a letter to the National Environmental Agency NEA to complain about construction noise on Sundays and Public Holidays in our neighbourhood, we asked for a Sunday free of construction noise because it has been disrupting to our Sundays for 18 months. Sheer desparation brought us together, I had up until then, never spoken to most of them. This letter was sent out in June but the construction noise has continued to this day, even on X’mas day! NEA knows the problem since they have been inaundated with calls. Yet they are slow to react. Who are they protecting?

National Environment Agency
40 Scotts Road
Environment Building #13-00
Singapore 228231

15 June 08

Dear Sir

Appeal to ban construction in high-density neighbourhoods on Sundays and public holidays

We represent 25 households living in two 11-storey high apartment blocks that flank a construction site, 77 Mergui Road. They are building a 19-storey condominium on this construction site and our blocks are 20-30m away from it. The developer is Fragrance Properties Pte Ltd. They have been building 7 days a week including Sundays and public holidays and they will continue for the next 10 months according to the hoarding signboard.

We are writing to you because we are at our wits end with what to do about the disruption caused to our lives by the construction noise that has bombarded our homes on Sundays/Public Holidays for the past 8 months.

Sundays for most of us is our only rest day and that has been made impossible by the loud construction noise. Some of us are forced to leave our homes on Sunday. This is the case on all Public Holidays too. Even Labour Day, a day you would expect the workers to be given a rest day! If you do not intervene, including the 8 months that we have already suffered, it would 18 months of lost Sundays and public holidays for us.

We would not be writing to you if our numerous complaints to NEA and also to the worksite foreman were not futile. When a complaint is made to NEA, officers who visit the site tell us that the noise the workers make is within the “permissible limits”, there is nothing the officers can do but to “advise the contractor” to be more considerate. Meanwhile, they will continue to “monitor the situation”. Unfortunately, the monitoring has not yielded any sustained result. There are Sundays when the workers deign to stop the noise at 5pm, but this is ad hoc. They continue the work again the early next Sunday. Obviously this softly approach of “advising the contractor” does not work.

Meanwhile, when we approach the contractors, they ignore our pleas because they say that they are working within the limits NEA set. Besides they are behind schedule so they need to work 7 days a week.

The issue is that the permissible levels that your department has set needs to be re-reviewed urgently. We would like you to ban construction on worksites on Sundays/PH where there are high-density dwellings very near the work site. If you feel that a ban is too draconian, we tell you that it is not. Try waking up every Sunday to hammering and welding sounds right outside your bedroom. Our homes, I mentioned before are less than 30m from the site. Enclosed is a picture taken from the lift lobby of 81 Mergui Rd, next door to the site. See how close we are to the site.

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If one of your jobs is to balance the competing needs of different constituents of Singapore, we want to inform you that the permissible noise limits skew too far in favour of the developer. We urge you to make Singapore a pleasant place for all to live, not just for developers and contractors.

We are not complaining about noise per say. We can bear construction noise from Monday to Saturday. All we ask is that we residents are allowed to rest in peace on Sundays/PH, just one day of the week. After all, what does it mean to “live in Singapore”, if living here means having to put up with this din 365 days a year and for such a prolonged period of time?

We would like to have a dialogue with you about this issue. We would also like to invite you to our homes on Sunday so that you can hear for yourself the construction din that we suffered these past 8 months and will have to put up for 10 more if you allow this to continue.

This letter carries only 25 representative signatures from each affected household, but it represents many more within each household who are affected, children, elderly who are unable to speak for themselves.

Together, all we ask is a Sunday of peace and quiet in our homes.

Thank you,

Tan Pin Pin (Contact person) This is signed by representatives of 24 other households.

cc CEO NEA, Chairman NEA, Minister MEWR

Pt 2 Rights of Singapore to have a quiet Sunday
Pt 3 Reply from the NEA to the letter above