29 November 2022

On 7 November 2022, the State Lands Protection Bill (“Bill”) was introduced for first reading in Parliament. When in force, the new legislation will replace the current State Lands Encroachments Act 1883 (“SLEA”), which was last reviewed in 1974. Since then, the types of encroachments and misuse of State land have evolved, rendering many of the SLEA’s provisions outdated and ineffective. The enhancements introduced in the Bill will support the Singapore Land Authority (“SLA”) in its management of State land and ensure that State land is better protected from damage and improper use.

The following are the key changes under the Bill:

  • Updated definitions and encroachment offences: The Bill clarifies the definition of “structure” which, when erected on, under or over State land, may constitute an encroachment. This includes land reclamation works and external features protruding from buildings such as awnings. New offences such as parking of vehicles on State land without lawful authority have also been added.
  • Enhanced penalties: Penalties in the new Bill are higher to align with those in newer legislation such as the Parks and Trees Act 2005 which deals with State land that are nature reserves and national parks.
  • Widened scope of compensation: Offenders who are convicted may be ordered by the court to make monetary compensation for various types of loss or damage suffered by the Government due to the offence, e.g. the value of any substance removed from State land, the costs and expenses incurred by SLA in abating the encroachment, and the costs and expenses incurred by an electricity or gas licensee or the Public Utilities Board in complying with a court order to discontinue the supply of electricity, gas or water.
  • Strengthened enforcement powers: Authorised officers or enforcement officers will be empowered to obtain disclosure of identity from suspected offenders, enter, and inspect any land without warrant if there is reasonable suspicion that the land is used in the commission of an offence. Minor offences may be compounded by collecting a composition sum not exceeding S$5,000, instead of instituting criminal proceedings.
  • Streamlined proceedings to abate encroachments: Enforcement proceedings will be streamlined to allow enforcement officers to directly issue encroachment notices requiring offenders to stop unlawful activity on State land, instead of having to apply to court. The Bill also provides for interim injunctions to be sought from the court against a person before conviction to prevent, alleviate or minimise irreparable damage to State land, including collapse or danger to persons arising from the unlawful use of State land.
  • Forfeiture of abandoned land: Under the SLEA, land abandoned for three years or more is forfeited to the State if no claim is established within six months from the date of a gazette and a notice in the four official languages posted on the land. Under the Bill, the claim period will be reduced to three months to expedite the process.

Reference materials

The following materials are available from Singapore Statutes Online sso.agc.gov.sg and the SLA website www.sla.gov.sg: