In a landmark decision, the Mumbai Heritage Conservation Committee (MHCC) has resolved to move the state government to demand the cancellation of the notification allowing the municipal commissioner to use his discretionary powers to grant permission for redevelopment of Heritage Grade III structures and heritage precincts. According to the new provision, the commissioner will have to follow the prescribed heritage protection regulations and grant permission only in consultation with the MHCC.
The decision was taken during the second meeting of the committee on Tuesday. “When I cleared the file, the circular on the heritage status was not pointed out to me,” Kumar had earlier said.
“The urban development department had issued a notification couple of years ago saying the heritage regulations would not apply for redevelopment of Heritage Grade III buildings and heritage precincts. The notification exempted the prescribed heritage regulations, allowing the commissioner to take a decision using his discretionary power,” said V Ranganathan, chairman, MHCC. “To remove any ambiguity in this regard, the committee felt the need to move the state government so that this notification is cancelled. We did not go through the merits of the decision taken for Vasant Sagar since the matter is in court.”
The decision has been welcomed by heritage conservationists and activists.
“It was wrong on the part of the former municipal commissioner to grant permission for the redevelopment of a property in a listed heritage precinct at a time when the heritage committee was not in office,” said DM Sukthankar, former committee chairperson. “He could have waited for the formation of a new heritage committee to obtain their advice on the issue. It will be a good move to cancel the provision in the regulation exempting prior consultation with the heritage committee with respect to permission granted for redevelopment in heritage precincts and grade III structures,” he added.
“Let the state government take a decision on the issue. I do not want to comment on it,” said Subodh Kumar, former municipal commissioner.
“Almost 80% of the city’s heritage is either Grade III structures or precincts. They are highly vulnerable to demolition and redevelopment,” said Pankaj Joshi, former heritage committee member. “Any proposal for reconstruction and redevelopment of such structures in consultation with the committee will help in the conservation of a bulk of the city’s heritage.”