Several grade III heritage structures may have been recommended an upgrade to put them beyond the municipal commissioner’s discretionary powers to allow redevelopment, conservationists and civic officials have said.
In 2005, the Mumbai Metropolitan Region-Heritage Conservation Society (MMR-HCS), a body commissioned to inspect existing heritage structures and identify new ones, submitted its report to the BMC for approval. While the number of heritage grade III structures recommended by the MMR- HCS in 2005 was 649, it was brought down to 514 in the final list published by the BMC in July 2012.
“At the heritage committee level, there is a possibility that recommended grade III structures may have been awarded a grade II status to protect them by restricting the discretionary powers of the municipal commissioner. By improving the grade, the committee could ensure better protection of structures through its intervention in granting permissions,” said former committee chairperson DM Sukthankar.
Last month, members of the Mumbai Heritage Conservation Committee (MHCC) decided to move the state government demanding the cancellation of a notification that gave the civic chief the power to permit redevelopment of heritage grade III structures and precincts without consulting the heritage panel.
Committee members added that an upgrade would mean sterner regulations and an elaborate approval process. “In case of heritage grade III structures, the procedure to seek permission for repair and redevelopment is simpler. With the upgrade, real estate developers and residents will have to deal with longer procedures to seek permissions," said a committee member, requesting anonymity.
While the existing list mainly comprised public buildings in south Mumbai, the proposed list - for the first time - includes several private buildings in the suburbs.
Officials also claimed that after the September 30 deadline for feedback, the MHCC would have to re-visit the enlisted spots and reassign grades. “Based on the inspection, there is a possibility of downgrading certain proposed heritage structures,” said Pankaj Joshi, executive director, Urban Design Research Institute.