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Play in shared spaces: How can S'pore balance competing needs?

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In Your Opinion

Synopsis: Every second Monday of the month, The Straits Times takes a hard look at Singapore's social issues of the day with guests. Podcaster: Lynda 
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How can community spaces co-exist with competing demands while fostering spontaneous and free play?

Synopsis: Every second and fourth Monday of the month, The Straits Times takes a hard look at social issues of the day with guests.

Managing the use of void decks in Singapore is like a cagey board game – one where Sembawang Town Council played the ultimate “no ball games” card, recently barricading Block 638 Woodlands Ring Road's void deck due to noisy school kids, stirring both controversy and reflection. 

This was not a solo act; similar void deck blockades have hit Jalan Kayu and Tampines, creating a recurring match between communal play and resident grievances in recent years. 

The incident sparked a lively online commentary, with opinions ranging from “Give kids space!" to "Stray balls are public enemy #1."

The barricades may have been taken down, but bigger questions persist: Have we taken for granted the community spaces we share? Do we still value conviviality, or have we become too individualised? Is there still room for spontaneous play and social cohesion, or are Singaporeans becoming more intolerant?

As the city evolves, the challenge remains – how can we rejig our infrastructure requirements to preserve the magic of free-access public spaces? The game is afoot!

In this episode, ST journalist Gabrielle Chan and assistant ST Now editor Sazali Abdul Aziz delve into this discussion with Professor Laavanya Kathiravelu, who specialises in sociology with a focus on urban planning in cities at the National Technological University of Singapore.

Highlights (click/tap above):

2:37 Why has the discussion of this issue evoked such strong emotions among Singaporeans?

7:44 Is too much balance and structure limiting the creativity of Singaporeans?

11:39 The “Not In My Backyard” syndrome

16:07 Are playgrounds still a good tool for social integration?

21:02 Are authorities too heavy-handed in dealing with complaints?

27:22 What other solutions are there to balance the needs of the community when it comes to shared spaces?

Read Gabrielle Chan’s article:

Read Sazali Abdul Aziz’s opinion column:

Produced by: Gabrielle Chan (, Sazali Abdul Aziz (, Ernest Luis, Hadyu Rahim & Amirul Karim

Edited by: Hadyu Rahim

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In Your Opinion

Synopsis: Every second Monday of the month, The Straits Times takes a hard look at Singapore's socia 
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