On 13 March 2015, Parliament passed the State Lands (Amendment) Bill 2015 and the Land Acquisition (Amendment) Bill 2015. Both Bills are not yet in force.

The proposed amendments facilitate the Government’s long-term planning for the development and productive use of underground space in the future. This will allow surface land to be used for other purposes, such as parks and greenery, homes and offices.

State Lands (Amendment) Bill 2015

It is explained in the Second Reading Speech for the State Lands (Amendment) Bill 2015 that, under the current law, a landowner owns the underground space to a depth that is reasonably necessary for the use and enjoyment of surface land. However, it is not clear as to what such depth is.

The State Lands Act will be amended to clarify that surface landowners own the underground space up to 30 metres under the Singapore Height Datum, unless otherwise specified in the State title. Landowners’ existing use of their land will not be affected as basements of developments in Singapore generally extend to about 15 metres underground.

The State Lands Act will also be amended to ensure that the surface landowner will continue to have a right to sink his piles to the depths necessary to provide support for his surface development, including depths within the State-owned stratum. The State Lands Encroachments Act will be amended to clarify that a person who exercises such rights under the easement of support will not be considered to be encroaching on State land.

Consequential amendments will be made to the other laws such as the Land Titles Act, Rapid Transit Systems Act and the Sale of Commercial Properties Act to align provisions and expressions in these Acts with the amendments to be made by the Bill.

Land Acquisition (Amendment) Bill 2015

The Land Acquisition Act will be amended to allow for the acquisition of a specific stratum of space. The amendments will facilitate the following objects:

  1. Provide for the compulsory acquisition of only subterranean space below the surface of any land, or only airspace above the surface of any land, and the compensation for such taking of underground or airspace stratum. This will provide the Government with the flexibility to acquire only a specific stratum of space that is needed, for example, a pocket of underground space, instead of having to acquire the entire column of land, including the surface land and airspace, when developing public projects.
  2. Refine the framework for the temporary occupation of land for public purposes. A new Schedule in the Bill sets out the items for which affected landowners may claim compensation, such as loss due to displacement from the land or structural damage caused to the building on the land. The Schedule also sets out the basis on which compensation is to be assessed. Further, the Bill sets out the procedure and timelines for making a claim for compensation for the temporary occupation of land.
  3. Provide that owners of land who suffer substantial impairment of their rights in land because of any temporary occupation, acquisition of airspace stratum or underground stratum below their land or severance may request the Government to acquire their land.

Related amendments will be made to other Acts including the Land Transport Authority of Singapore Act, Public Utilities Act and Rapid Transit Systems Act.

Reference materials

The following materials are available on the Parliament website www.parliament.gov.sg and the Ministry of Law website www.mlaw.gov.sg.