With effect from 8 May 2015, the State Lands Act and Land Acquisition Act have been amended tofacilitate the Government’s long-term planning for the use and development of underground space in the future. More extensive use of underground space in land-scarce Singapore will benefit all Singaporeans as surface land may be used for other purposes, such as parks and greenery, homes and offices.

State Lands (Amendment) Act 2015: Clarifying extent of underground ownership

The amendments to the State Lands Act clarify that surface landowners own the underground space up to 30 metres under the Singapore Height Datum, unless otherwise specified in the State title. The Singapore Height Datum is a level fixed across the whole of Singapore from which height measurements take reference. It is pegged to Singapore’s historical mean sea level. The amendments will not affect how landowners currently use and develop underground spaces as basements of developments in Singapore generally extend to about 15 metres underground.

Essentially, the Act introduces new sections 3B and 3C, pursuant to which it is declared that any land includes only so much of the subterranean space as is reasonably necessary for the use and enjoyment of the land, being such depth of subterranean space as is specified in the State title for that land, or if no such depth is specified, subterranean space to ‑30.000 metres from the Singapore Height Datum.

Land Acquisition (Amendment) Act 2015: Introducing strata acquisition powers

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

  • Enable 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;
  • Refine the framework for the temporary occupation of land for public purposes; and
  • 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.

Reference materials

The following materials are available from the Singapore Statutes Online website statutes.agc.gov.sg:

An article about the Acts when they were passed in Parliament was featured in a previous issue of the Allen & Gledhill Legal Bulletin (March 2015). To read the article entitled “Parliament passes Bills to amend State Lands Act and Land Acquisition Act to facilitate use and development of underground space”, please click here.