Toa Payoh resident's Xmas decor gets the green light
A TOA Payoh resident will get to keep the makeshift Christmas lighting and other decorations that he has put up outside his Housing Board ground-floor unit.
For the past three years, Martin Silva's glittering patios have become a meeting point for residents during the festive season, with some queuing to have their pictures taken there. But they have also got him into trouble with the town council.
Mr Silva, 57, told a video team from The Straits Times earlier this week that he was fined several times by the Bishan-Toa Payoh Town Council for unauthorised use of public space, and that his Christmas scene might have to be taken down. The video drew an outpouring of support from netizens on the newspaper's Facebook page.
Zainudin Nordin, a Member of Parliament for Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC, has helped to resolve the issue.
The MP said on his Facebook page yesterday that, following a meeting with the citizens' consultative committee and residents' committee, the makeshift Christmas structures and decorations will remain so long as Mr Silva agrees to keep the area open for community use.
Speaking to The Straits Times yesterday, Mr Silva said the decision was a step in the right direction to bring back the "kampung spirit".
He said he will not be claiming the fines paid to the town council, which amount to $2,200 over the past three years. "They were a small price to pay to achieve what we have done," he said.
He added: "This is a fantastic breakthrough for families like mine, who are just trying to bring people together and opening their homes to everyone."
In his Facebook post, Mr Zainudin said he understood the town council's concerns as it has a responsibility to keep common areas safe for residents.
"But, at the same time, if residents have good ideas to bond the community (together), we should encourage them," he said.
"The RC members informed neighbours that they would adopt this as a community project for all residents to use. With these changes for common use and to ensure safety, the town council can now approve its use on common property."
Some planks, however, would have to be removed for safety reasons, Mr Zainudin said.
In an e-mailed statement yesterday, Bishan-Toa Payoh Town Council chief executive Ling Ming Chuan said the town council had inspected Mr Silva's makeshift patios, which were erected in the front and rear of his unit, and took issue with the latter.
The wooden-plank flooring of the patio at the rear of his unit was warped and uneven, and had holes in it, posing a danger to the elderly and young children.
It was also a potential mosquito-breeding site, the statement said.
Mr Ling said the town council had no issues with the decorations as they added colour and festivity to the block, and were enjoyed by residents.
The statement added that Mr Silva had earlier been informed that his patios infringed common property by-laws to protect residents' safety and ensure communal use of common property, and that the fines were issued for non-compliance with the by-laws.
Said Mr Ling: "The town council is happy to support all projects which promote community bonding. Indeed, this is part of our overall mission.
"However, these projects must benefit not specific individuals, but all residents, and must not endanger their health or safety."