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Sengkang West 'not quite Jalan Kayu'

To the left is the stretch of Jalan Kayu Road that has been rem
The Straits Times - March 4, 2014
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Sengkang West 'not quite Jalan Kayu'

Seletar residents are up in arms over the naming of a new dual two-lane road where a portion of Jalan Kayu used to stand.

They say the names - Sengkang West Avenue and Sengkang West Way - bear little geographical and historical significance.

"Jalan Kayu, which means road of wood, reflects how the area was heavily wooded in the past. Naming it after Sengkang has little relation to the immediate area's past and heritage," said Seletar Hills resident George Pasqual.

The road is part of a new road network that the Land Transport Authority (LTA) has been upgrading since 2011 to meet the expected rise in traffic generated by the new Seletar Aerospace Park and other developments in the area.

A 400m portion of Jalan Kayu that used to connect to Yio Chu Kang Road was removed. The stretch with a series of eateries and food stalls still stands. The network is slated to be ready in the third quarter of this year.

While welcoming the move to ease congestion, Mr Pasqual, 80, a retired engineering manager, said he is disappointed that the authorities neither preserved the Jalan Kayu name nor considered branching out from there.

He suggested names such as Jalan Kayu Grove or Avenue to better capture the area's heritage.

Mr Hwang Soo Jin, MP of Jalan Kayu from 1968 to 1984, agrees. "This will provide continuity to the historic road. The name change will reduce the significance of Jalan Kayu and blur public memories of the interesting historical background of the area."

Carved out in the 1920s by British civil engineers from the Royal Air Force, the road was the only track that led to the force's air base in Seletar. It also bore witness to the changes the area went through - from the pig farms that dotted its surroundings up till the 1970s to the vegetable farms, florists and ornamental fish farms that sprung up a decade later.

In response, an LTA spokesman said the area near the new lanes, west of Sungei-Punggol, had earlier been identified as Sengkang West Town.

The names of all new roads within the area were thus based on the township. "This would be geographically consistent and gives a clearer indication of the location," he said.

They were also approved by the Street and Building Names Board in 2009, he added.

Urban historian Lai Chee Kien said consideration should also be given to the toponymic system used in the 19th century for northern Singapore, where rivers and their watersheds were used to determine place and street names on land between the rivers.

Under this system, Jalan Kayu is between the Seletar and Punggol rivers, so north-south roads west of Jalan Kayu, like the proposed Sengkang West Road, should in theory not bear the name Sengkang as it is closer to Seletar.

Seletar Hills Estate Residents' Association chairman Percival Jeyapal said residents should have been asked. It represents 500 households and 3,000 residents.

"We woke up one morning and realised the roads had changed," he said.



Rain returns to Singapore in the west