Integrating the Planning of Airports and the City: The Singapore Story

Urban Systems Studies (USS): Integrating the Planning of Airports and the City: The Singapore Story

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As a former British colony, Singapore had flourished as a trading port-of-call due to its strategic location along the shipping route between Asia and Europe. However, neither its past colonial links nor geography could guarantee its continued success in the oncoming jet age.

For the newly independent government formed in 1965, there were several fundamental national priorities, such as housing, job creation, education and infrastructure. However, a strategic decision was taken to build a new commercial international airport at Changi—a hefty mega-infrastructure that carried both substantial costs and risks for a land-strapped island which already had four airports. Such a decision bore far-reaching consequences in terms of land use, transport, industrial planning, defence, residential and social spaces.

In this Urban Systems Study, readers will learn about the comprehensive planning that went into the development of Changi Airport, and the integrated manner in which it was carried out. It additionally explores Singapore’s experience in navigating the unique urban-planning constraints and trade-offs brought about by both civilian and military airports, and examines the systematic approach taken to capitalise on airport developments to catalyse urban and economic development.

Changi Airport is our major investment to exploit our geographic location. Singapore must be prepared and ready to seize every opportunity that comes its way. Whether we have been extravagant in investing in an airport of this size and level of sophistication is a question worthy of a rhetorical rejoinder. Can Singapore ever afford not to have such an airport?

- Howe Yoon Chong, Former Minister for Defence