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Winter 2009/2010

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Singapore Uses GIS to Master Land-Use Planning


  • Plans utilize ArcGIS to help guide development 40 to 50 years into the future.
  • A customized ArcGIS Desktop application fits the workflow needs of the URA.
  • More than 40,000 citizens viewed the GIS-based maps on the Master Plan Web site in just three months.

With a population of five million and a limited land area of 710 square kilometers (274 square miles), Singapore faces immense challenges in its land-use planning. Given its small size, careful planning is critical for the economic growth and future development of the country. Throughout the past 40 years since gaining its independence, Singapore has prided itself on sustainable development, which has allowed it to achieve economic growth appreciated by its citizens. By planning ahead and balancing land-use needs, Singapore believes it is possible for its land-scarce nation to continue to meet development and economic objectives without sacrificing a good quality of life.

Artist's conception of the Marina Bay element of Singapore's Master Plan (courtesy: Urban Redevelopment Authority, Singapore).

The Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA), Singapore's national land-use planning and conservation agency, is challenged with finding smart solutions so there will always be space for the needs of the island. URA prepares long-term strategic plans, as well as detailed local-area plans, for physical development, then coordinates and guides efforts to bring these plans to reality. The organization's mission is to keep Singapore a great city to live, work, and play in. It carries out its mission by planning and facilitating the physical development of Singapore in partnership with the community to create a global city of distinction.

Singapore adopts a centralized planning approach while ensuring a judicious use of land so as not to compromise its ability to meet future needs. This is done through URA's preparation of the Concept Plan and the Master Plan, both of which provide a comprehensive, forward-looking, integrated framework for sustainable development.

  click to enlarge
Through the Master Plan 2008 Web site, citizens can view layers of data, such as housing areas.

The Concept Plan is Singapore's strategic land-use and transportation plan to guide development in the next 40 to 50 years. The Concept Plan, which is reviewed every 10 years, ensures that there is sufficient land to meet anticipated population and economic growth and provide a good living environment. It also ensures that future development balances economic growth with environmental stewardship and social progress. The Master Plan is a land-use plan that guides Singapore's development over the next 10 to 15 years. Reviewed every five years, the Master Plan translates the broad long-term strategies of the Concept Plan into detailed plans to guide Singapore's development. The Concept Plan and Master Plan are the result of extensive collaborative efforts involving key government agencies, and the sharing of land information and requirements by the agencies is an integral part of the land-use planning process.

URA's Integrated Planning and Land Use System (iPLAN) is an enterprise GIS used for urban planning. Operational since 2006, iPLAN enables URA's planners to carry out their land-use and strategic planning work effectively and efficiently. With iPLAN, URA is better able to deliver public services through the automation and integration of manual processes using IT and GIS.

  click to enlarge
The Master Plan contains detailed GIS data and maps, such as a Building Height Control layer.

URA subscribes to LandNet, a server GIS-based repository hosted by the Singapore Land Authority that contains more than 100 layers of geospatial data from more than 14 public agencies. Using the shared data from LandNet and the functionality in ArcGIS software, URA creates and edits the Master Plan maps for the internal use of staff, as well as publishing on the Internet for viewing by the general public.

URA's ArcGIS Server and ArcGIS Desktop software are used to create the plans, and the ArcGIS Desktop ArcMap application has been customized to meet URA's workflow requirements. The use of iPLAN has enhanced productivity and enabled faster decision making through better data integration and accessibility. Using the ArcGIS Server platform, about 200 URA employees can access needed GIS data directly from their desktop computers. Meanwhile, GIS data is diffused through better access to fundamental workflow tools, such as simple data retrieval services or editing applications.

In 2008, URA exhibited and published the draft Master Plan 2008 for online public consultation. During the consultation period from May 2008 to December 2008, more than 200,000 people visited the dedicated Web site to view and give feedback on the planning proposals. The Master Plan 2008 was gazetted in December 2008 after incorporating the relevant feedback and suggestions from members of the public and stakeholders.

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The Master Plan shows a map of the permissible land uses for development in Singapore.

"Enabling quick and easy access to the Master Plan allows citizens to participate in the land-use planning process. It also gives them a glimpse of the future developments in the city and the areas where they live," says URA's senior planner, Tan Chia-Li.

GIS supports URA's long-term, integrated planning and delivers government services more efficiently.

More Information

For more information, contact Goh Chye Kiang, senior systems analyst, Urban Redevelopment Authority, Singapore (e-mail:, or Tan Chia-Li, senior planner, Urban Redevelopment Authority, Singapore (e-mail:

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