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Piecemeal restrictions in Delhi Master Plan leave Lutyens’ Zone in limbo

The Capital’s Lutyens’ Zone stands frozen in time due to heavy restrictions on construction. Piecemeal planning by authorities has hit the aesthetics, density and environment of the area.

delhi Updated: Feb 16, 2018 10:49 IST
Parvez Sultan
Parvez Sultan
Hindustan Times
Delhi Master Plan,Lutyens’ Zone,Bungalow zone
Construction of high-rises is barred in New Delhi. The rule was introduced following the PMO’s intervention when bungalows were being converted into multi-storey structures, especially in Connaught Place and its vicinity, during 1970-80s.(Ravi Choudhary/HT FILE)

YK Anand (68) and Savita (63), live alone at Babar Road. Their only son had to move out with his family, including two sons, due to lack of space.

Anand’s house, measuring over 200 square yards, is a single-storey structure and has only two-and-a-half rooms which were not ‘sufficient’ for the growing family. “I wanted my grandchild to stay with me but I can’t reconstruct this house. Our neighbourhood was added to Lutyens’ Bungalow Zone (LBZ) in 2003, and we are not allowed to increase the built-up area,” Anand said.

Babar Road near Bengali Market comprises around 280 plots and came up in 1935-40. At that time, the area had mostly single-storey independent dwelling units.

Over the years, 200 of those units were converted into two-three storey buildings.

In 2003, the urban development ministry amended its 1988 guidelines regulating construction activities in LBZ (or New Delhi) to maintain its heritage structures, and avenues in the area.

The amendment extended LBZ’s limit (28. 79 square kilometre) up to Sundar Nagar, Golf Links, Jor Bagh, Sardar Patel Marg, and Bengali Market.

At present, the zone comprises 3,000 government properties and 600 private bungalows. Before the redrawing
of its boundary in 1988 , the LBZ area was 25.88 sqkm.

Built-up area restrictions

The ministry’s 1988 guidelines, barring construction of high-rises in New Delhi, don’t permit augmentation of built-up area and Floor Area Ratio (FAR).

The rule was introduced following the intervention of Prime Minister Office (PMO) when several bungalows were being converted into multi-storey structures in New Delhi area, especially in Connaught Place and its vicinity during 1970-80s.

The ministry of urban development (MoUD), in 1972, set up the New Delhi Redevelopment Advisory Committee (NDRAC) to propose modifications in building by-laws for the region. After its recommendation, several old barracks and horse stables were demolished in New Delhi and redevelopment work was carried out around Gole Market.

This was also the time when Connaught Place area saw emergence of several multi-storeyed buildings. “Many bungalows, particularly on Kasturba Gandhi Marg, Barakhamba Road, were demolished to facilitate multi-storey apartments. Prime Minister Indira Gandhi had to intervene and the transformation was stopped,” said AK Jain, former commissioner (planning) of Delhi Development Authority (DDA) .

A ban on multi-storeyed buildings was imposed in 1985. It was partially relaxed in 1986 but reinforced in 1988. It was also imbibed in the Master Plan of Delhi (MPD) 2021 notified in 2007.

“New construction on a plot must have the same plinth area as the existing bungalow and must have a height not exceeding the height of the bungalow in place or if the plot is vacant, the height of the bungalow which is the lowest of those on the adjoining plots,” the MPD said.

87 years later, no development code for Lutyens’ city
Lutyens’ Delhi in numbers
New Delhi, constructed by the British as their seat of power, was inaugurated on February 15, 1931
2,800 hectares area
3.01 lakh Total construction cost
29,000 Workers employed
3,000 No. of government properties in the Lutyens’ Bungalow Zone (LBZ)
600 No. of private bungalows in LBZ
2,57,803 Current population
139 No. of roads
1,107 acres green cover (parks 6, gardens 6, roundabouts 50, green patches along roads, and rose garden 4)
16 No. of plants species, which were used along the wide avenues of the new city built by the British engineers
What master plans proposed
Redevelopment of low density areas in New Delhi such as Gole Market, Curzon Road (Kasturba Gandhi Marg), and York Place (Moti Lal Nehru Place) for intensive use of land
Relocation of government offices in barracks and used the areas to develop houses for government employees n Development of Connaught Place, in harmony with the existing urban form of the classical Connaught Circus
Monorail, battery-operated or high capacity buses, sky buses to increase mobility within Connaught Place
Gallery, open-air theatres and food plazas in CP
Trees for roads
Neem: Prithviraj Road, Shahjahan Road, Lodi Road
Jamun: Ashok Road, Rajpath, Rajaji Marg, Moti Lal Nehru Marg, etc
Imli: Tilak Marg, Akbar Road, Pandit Pant Marg
Arjun: Janpath, Park Street, Teen Murti Marg
Peepal: Sardar Patel Marg, Mandir Marg
Maulshree: San Martin Marg
Pilkhan: Dr Zakir Husain Marg Dr Rajendra Prasad Marg

“Our colony was made part of Lutyens’ Zone in 2003 though it developed after 1947. We have been suffering for the last 14 years and have made several representations to the urban development ministry but nothing happened,” Anand said.

The ministry received representations from Sundar Nagar, Golf Links, Jor Bagh, Sardar Patel Marg, and Bengali Market seeking a relaxation of norms to make additional floors. The pleas were sent to Delhi Urban Art Commission (DUAC) that examined LBZ guidelines.

A panel chaired by Professor PSN Rao submitted a report on LBZ boundary and development guidelines in July 2015. It recommended denotification of these colonies and permission to be governed by statutory provisions of local authorities in a calibrated manner.

“Some houses in our colony need major repair but no one seems to be interested. The renovation will cost a bomb. With that much money, a new multi-storeyed building can be raised,” said Anil Bajaj, who lives in Golf Links. The upscale neighbourhood that was carved out in 1956 after acquiring farmland in south Delhi has 212 independent houses.

“At present, 60% houses have a second floor. The rest can’t add more floors after 2003 guidelines. The law should be the same for all. The argument given was that permission for extra floors will open the gates for building mafia. But how can they leave people to suffer,” Bajaj said.

An official of the UD ministry said it is yet to take a decision regarding the recommendations made by the commission on delineation of LBZ.

Haphazard growth

With the continuing deadlock, only government properties get approval for reconstruction or redevelopment. AGK Menon, architect and urban planner, said that this ‘piecemeal’ planning and ad hoc decision by the government has hit the aesthetics, density, and environment of Lutyens’ Zone.

According to the norm laid down in MPD 2021, if an “additional construction of a special nature” is needed in a government bungalow, local authorities may allow it with approval of the government.

“I am for preservation of heritage structures. At the same time, I am also against freezing development. We need to have comprehensive planning. All major cities are growing — London, Paris, and Beijing,” Menon said.

“At the same time, I disapprove of nod to new constructions such as Ambedkar International Centre, government quarters in Rashtrapati Bhawan estate, DRDO offices, and extension of All India Radio (AIR), without assessing the impact.”

Menon said that projects being given individual approvals in New Delhi require careful planning.

“The population density is likely to increase. What impact will it have on services, transport, and utilities? The LBZ is degenerating because of neglect and because it is not being treated dynamically,” he added.

Former DDA commissioner AK Jain also voiced similar opinion. “Apart from the large size of its plots and bungalows, the LBZ is also known for its pleasant green environment. Wide avenues lined up with green trees are its essential character and have to be conserved. A comprehensive survey of the green cover has not been done so far. ‘Aesthetically blind’ agencies are carrying out redevelopment,” Jain said.

Read: Multiple agencies hamper implementation of Master Plan rules

No development code for Lutyens’ zone?

Dunu Roy, director at Hazards Centre that provides professional services to community and labour organisations, said planning in LBZ is severely affected as there is no development code for it.

“The development code is a primary study which helps to decide how many schools, hospitals, and other facilities you require in an area on the basis of population density. All planning and schemes in New Delhi area are based on assumptions. It dilutes standards,” he added.

However, Roy said redevelopment in New Delhi is taking place according to policies and as per the requirement of MPD. “Construction is taking place wherever it is permitted. If land use policy permits, government offices and institutional buildings are being built,” he said citing the example of redevelopment of east Kidwai Nagar and Sarojini Nagar government accommodation projects.

“As MPD 2021 states redevelopment of land through optimal utilization, these colonies are being reconstructed. This will solve the shortage of government residential accommodations and commercial space in the city as they are planning to retain markets,” Roy said.

As commercialisation of residential units began around 2007, NDMC conceived a plan to redevelop Khan Market. It appointed a consultant to prepare a proposal. According to the plan, an underground parking was to be developed and elevated walkways connecting upper floors were to be constructed. Even after seven years, the plan is still on paper only. ( Sanchit Khanna/HT PHOTO )

New Delhi as smart city project

New Delhi, along 19 urban centres, has been selected under Smart Cities Mission of the ministry of urban development. NDMC’s ₹1,800 crore smart city plan has a deadline of 2020.

A senior official of the New Delhi Municipal Council said smart city programme will ensure infrastructure upgrade, improvement of livability and sustainability as well as economic growth.

As part of the plan, several technology-based initiatives have been proposed such as unified command and control centre, smart water and power grids, multi-level parkings, sewage treatment plants, and smart public hygiene centres. It has also proposed redesigning 13 roads, including seven roads leading to Connaught Place, the official added.

However, Roy disagreed. “This will require more water, power, and resources. Given their limited availability, the remaining part of the city will have to sacrifice for this part,” he said.

First Published: Feb 16, 2018 10:01 IST