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Jurong Country Club to make way for high-speed rail terminus

Development comes as a shock to the club management and its 2,800 members; club has formed a taskforce to work with Singapore Land Authority

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Jurong Country Club (JCC) was on Monday gazetted for acquisition, paving the way for the site to be developed into the Singapore terminus of the high-speed rail (HSR) link with Malaysia - a development which caught the JCC management and its members flatfooted.

Singapore

JURONG Country Club's (JCC) land was on Monday gazetted for acquisition, paving the way for the site to be developed into the Singapore terminus of the high-speed rail (HSR) link with Malaysia - a development which caught the JCC management and its members flatfooted.

Singapore Land Authority (SLA) chief executive Tan Boon Khai said JCC will be offered no replacement for the golf club site following the acquisition.

The compensation to be paid to JCC under the Land Acquisition Act will be based on market value as at the acquisition date.

JCC is slated to hand over the land by November 2016. Its lease on the 67-ha site, last renewed in 2003, was supposed to have run out only in May 2035; the club, comprising the golf course and clubhouse, had just sunk S$23 million into upgrading its greens in 2012.

The land on which it sits is located within the 290-ha Lakeside area, which is part of the 360-ha Jurong Lake District.

The HSR terminus is expected to occupy 12 ha, or nearly 20 per cent of the JCC site; a Customs, Immigration & Quarantine (CIQ) facility will be located there.

Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) chief executive Ng Lang told reporters that the JCC site was chosen because the plot could accommodate the supporting infrastructure and amenities. The site's proximity to existing and future MRT lines and to the Jurong Gateway commercial hub was another factor.

The remaining 80 per cent of the site beyond the HSR terminus will be turned into a mixed-use precinct comprising offices, retail, hotels and homes; there could also be family-friendly amenities in the Lakeside water bodies, complementing the Jurong Lake Gardens and the new Science Centre.

These new developments will be implemented progressively.

Mr Ng said the URA is looking to create seamless connectivity between the HSR terminus and the Jurong Gateway commercial hub, stressing the importance of a critical mass to develop Jurong East into Singapore's second central business district (CBD).

"We also need to ensure that it is plugged into the rest of the region and plugged into the rest of Singapore, so this will involve doing a comprehensive review of how we would like to develop and improve the public infrastructure for the Jurong Lake District, using this as an opportunity."

Land Transport Authority chief executive Chew Men Leong said that most of the HSR infrastructure will be underground; the terminus is expected to be within 600m of the current Jurong East MRT station and connected by to it by linkways.

Two upcoming MRT lines, the Jurong Region Line (to be completed in 2025) and the Cross Island Line (2030) will be within accessible distance of the new terminal, Mr Chew said.

The road networks in the area will be adjusted to facilitate commuting and to wean people from their cars.

A week ago, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong had revealed that the Singapore terminus for the HSR link to Kuala Lumpur would be in the Jurong Lake District in Jurong East, but had not provided details of the site then.

He and Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak had also announced that the original target of completing the HSR by 2020 would need to be re-assessed, given the scale and complexity of the project.

Speaking in parliament on Monday, Transport minister Lui Tuck Yew said Singapore and Malaysia are in deep discussions on the technical, security, commercial and regulatory aspects of the HSR.

"It is too early for us to talk about fares, but we have already shared with the Malaysians that we think it's better for the express service between Kuala Lumpur and Singapore, and for the transit service that runs from KL through a number of stops before it reaches Singapore - for both these sets of services - to be managed separately," he said.

Property consultants say locating the HSR terminus in Jurong Lake District will likely boost Jurong property prices.

JLL national research director Ong Teck Hui said more commercial activity could nudge land and property values in Jurong East above "suburban levels" - to levels befitting its status as a second CBD.

News of the acquisition of the JCC site did not go down well for some members of the club.

A 75-year-old questioned the choice of the site, given its distance from the Jurong East MRT station; another said he was dismayed at the news, given that he started golfing at JCC only nine months ago.

Explaining the timing of the announcement, SLA's Mr Tan pointed to the complexity and amount of redevelopment planning required, and said time had to be given to JCC and its members to make alternative plans. He added that government agencies may work with JCC to identify another site for social purposes.

JCC now has some 2,000 golfing members and 800 social members. Its captain and chairman of the golf committee Ross Tan told The Business Times that the club received a flurry of queries from members when the news about the acquisition broke.

The JCC general committee will meet SLA in two weeks.

Meanwhile, the club sent out an e-mail to its members on Monday, informing them of the land acquisition, and that its general committee had appointed a task force to work with SLA during the acquisition process.

Corporate lawyer Robson Lee, partner at Gibson Dunn & Crutcher LLP, told BT that under such circumstances, the general committee will have to look into JCC's constitution and the trust deed on the use or distribution of proceeds from the compensation received. If the constitution and the trust deed are silent on this, the committee will have to convene a general meeting for members to deliberate on the use of proceeds.

Morgan Lewis Stamford director Ng Joo Khin noted that the by-laws or constitutions of some non-profit clubs require them to channel funds in their coffers to a charity should the club be dissolved; others may be required to return the funds to members.

It would also depend on how JCC decides to proceed from this point - it can choose to continue as a social club, acquire land or property later on which to build a replacement clubhouse, or even merge with another club, he said.

The government has been reclaiming land from golf courses for redevelopment. In February last year, Keppel Club and Marina Bay Golf Club were told that their leases would not be renewed upon expiry. Two golf clubs - the Tanah Merah Country Club and the National Service Resort & Country Club - have had the size of their golf courses cut, while the Singapore Island Country Club is in the middle of having its greens pared back.

Additional reporting by Lee U-Wen