Sembawang Shipyard, where SembCorp Operates, is one of Singapore’s major ports. (Photo: Nicolas Lannuzel, Wikimedia Commons) From rubber plantations and vegetable farms to military bases and now, a thriving residential estate, Sembawang offers a blend of colourful history, natural beauty and modern conveniences. by Cheryl Marie Tay Situated at the northernmost tip of the North Region of Singapore, Sembawang is one of the most historically significant areas in Singapore, having played a pivotal role as a British naval base and airbase during the Japanese Occupation. Today, however, it is a mostly residential suburban town with its own waterways, park, MRT station and schools.
Not bad for a place once partially burnt and wrecked during the second World War. A military history In the early 1900s, Sembawang was best known for being the site of the Nee Soon Rubber Estate, with vegetable farms and Chinese graveyards in the area. That changed in 1928, when decade-long construction on a major British major naval base began. The presence of the Royal Navy’s Singapore Naval Base (also called HMS Sembawang) and RAF Sembawang (completed in 1940) made Sembawang a prominent military base.
During the Battle of Singapore in February 1942, both bases were torched and destroyed by retreating British forces in order to prevent the Imperial Japanese Army from using them. Later on, in post-war 1945, the British regained control of both bases.
Along with the three other Royal Air Force bases in Singapore — RAF Changi, RAF Seletar and RAF Tengah — RAF Sembawang and HMS Sembawang and helped strengthen British military power in the country during the Malayan Emergency (1948 to 1960), the 1962 Brunei Revolt, and the Indonesia-Malaysia confrontation (1962 to 1966).
In the early 1960s, HMS Sembawang was used to accommodate the US Navy, in support of American action in the Vietnam War. The Singapore government then took over HMS Sembawang, and three years before the British withdrew from Singapore, converted it into a dockyard, better known today as SembCorp. The force is still strong While Singapore has not seen war for over 70 years, Sembawang has retained significant elements of its military past.
To this day, the British maintains a small logistics base at Sembawang wharf to control foreign military activities such as resupplying, refuelling and repairing Australian, British and New Zealand navy ships, as well as the navy ships of other Commonwealth countries under the Five Power Defence Arrangements (FPDA).
American air and naval forces also use the base facilities in Sembawang, thanks to a 1990 agreement between Singapore and the US. The Task Force 73 / Commander, Logistics Group Western Pacific (COMLOG WESTPAC) command has had its headquarters in Sembawang for the past 24 years, providing logistic support for the US 7th Fleet’s Pacific and Southeast Asia operations.
Several roads in Sembawang were named after Royal Navy admirals, cities, dockyards and warships, such as Canberra Road, Falkland Road and Wellington Road. Suburban life Though parts of its history are still prominent in the estate, Sembawang has largely grown to resemble most other suburban areas in Singapore. It has its own interchange and MRT station, as well as two malls, Sun Plaza and Sembawang Shopping Centre.
Schools in the estate include Wellington Primary School, the Canberra Primary and Secondary schools, and the Sembawang Primary and Secondary schools. A mix of HDB flats and private residential developments make up the housing in Sembawang.
Source: PropertyGuru Analytics, URA
At the same time, thanks to attractions such as Sembawang Park, Bottle Tree Village, Sungei Sembawang and the Sembawang Hot Spring, the estate also features plenty of flora and fauna residents can enjoy.
Sembawang Park has the distinction of being one of the only parks in Singapore with a natural beach, Wak Hassan Beach, which also happens to be one of the last natural beaches in the country.
The Sembawang Hot Spring is the only natural hot spring on mainland Singapore, while Bottle Tree Village is so named due to the bottle trees (and other varieties of Australian flora) imported from Queensland, Australia to be grown there.
Wong Xian Yang, Senior Manager, Research & Consultancy at OrangeTee.com, says: “Home buyers who are looking for a serene environment, away from the hustle and bustle of city life, will enjoy living in Sembawang. Not as densely populated as Woodlands and Yishun, it offers a quieter ambience, compared to its neighbours.” Not just a flat area While HDB flats are a dime a dozen in Sembawang, there are also several popular private residential projects in the estate.
Source: PropertyGuru Analytics, URA
One of these is The Visioniaire, a 99-year leasehold executive condominium (EC) development by Qingjian Realty. It consists of 632 two- to four-bedroom units, and its facilities include two clubhouses, a dance studio, a private dining room and a library.
Located on Canberra Drive, it is touted as Singapore’s first smart home development, with high-tech features by Samsung. The Visionaire is expected to receive its TOP (Temporary Occupation Permit) by October 2018.
Another EC worth mentioning is CDL’s The Brownstone, a New York-inspired project also situated on Canberra Drive.
With 638 two- to four-bedroom units and five-room penthouses across eight 12-storey blocks, the luxury development boasts features such as a 50 m lap pool, aqua deck, tennis court, six gardens (four of which are on the sky deck), a clubhouse, barbecue pits, and a gym.
The Brownstone is near Sembawang Shopping Centre, Sembawang Primary School and the upcoming Canberra MRT station, among many other amenities, and is scheduled for completion in 2019.
According to Wong, other advantages of living in Sembawang include its increasing accessibility and job opportunities. “Developments in Sembawang are poised to benefit from the future boost in its accessibility, with the completion of the Thomson-East Coast MRT Line and the North-South Expressway.
“Job creation in the area would also be driven by the future Woodlands regional centre and the North Coast Innovation Corridor.” Looking ahead, looking up Sembawang’s prospects are positive, unsurprising for an estate that combines nature (in the form of a park, a beach and plenty of flora and fauna) with homes and modern conveniences like schools, shopping malls, MRT stations and a bus interchange.
Wong says, “Residents can look forward to the completion of the North-South Expressway, which will cut travelling time to the city by about 30 percent. Furthermore, the development of the North Coast Innovation Corridor, which includes the Woodlands Regional Centre, will no doubt bode well for property prices in the area.”
Needless to say, Sembawang is all set to benefit from the aforementioned developments. And with its relatively lower property prices, compared to mature estates, there is substantial potential upside for Sembawang properties as the estate continues to evolve.
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