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Illegal occupants of state land face fine, up to six months' jail

Illegal occupants of state land face fine, up to six months' jail

Source: Straits Times
Article Date: 28 Mar 2021
Author: Zaihan Mohamed Yusof, Dominic Low & Ang Qing

Illegal occupation of state land is a trespass offence under the State Lands Encroachments Act.

The authorities managing the land where the secret structures and gardens were found told The Sunday Times that they have been taken down or are in the process of being removed.

The Housing Board said it conducts regular inspections on state land it manages that includes the sites at Bukit Gombak and Bukit Batok.

When encroachments like structures and plantings are observed, HDB said, a notice will be issued to the illegal occupants informing them that this is a trespass offence under the State Lands Encroachments Act.

HDB will then ask them to remove their items and vacate the premises by a given deadline.

If convicted under the Act, they can be fined up to $5,000 and jailed for up to six months.

HDB added it was aware of the illegal plantings at Bukit Gombak and was locating the owners to remove the plantings before re-turfing the area.

"We will also link them up with the grassroots organisations, if they are interested in carrying out their gardening activities at designated plots such as community gardens," it said.

HDB said while the site at Bukit Gombak is currently vacant, it is designated for park use in the Urban Redevelopment Authority's Master Plan 2019.

For the unauthorised gardens in Bukit Batok, HDB said the land is slated to be part of an upcoming Build-To-Order project, which will be built along a stretch of Bukit Batok West Avenue 5.

The site also falls within the Bukit Batok Hillside Park area, which attracted an online petition to conserve the secondary forest patch last year that has since garnered more than 13,300 signatures.

Upon discovering illegal occupants on the site, HDB said notices were issued last month instructing them to remove the structures and their belongings.

They have cleared their items and vacated the land as at the middle of this month, HDB added.

Meanwhile, it is in the process of removing the remaining structures outside the development site boundary at Bukit Batok.

The site is also progressively boarded up for construction works of the housing project, named West Hill @ Bukit Batok.

The National Parks Board (NParks) said it was aware of the makeshift altars erected at Tampines Eco Green and that the items have been removed. It reminded visitors to refrain from setting up structures in green spaces.

An NParks spokesman said: "Our parks are for all to enjoy. We encourage all visitors to be considerate of others when visiting our parks."

Source: Straits Times © Singapore Press Holdings Ltd. Permission required for reproduction.

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