‘Conditional’ nod to controversial mall in Gujarat

In January this year, the project ran into controversy after the VMC began a process to procure land for widening the existing 18-metre road along the plot, mandatory for the construction of a mall.

Written by Aditi Raja | Vadodara | Published:October 26, 2016 5:03 am
Gujarat mall news, Gujarat news,  Vadodara Municipal Corporation, VMC, latest news, India news, National news An on-site hoarding of Agora-2 in Vadodara. Bhupendra Rana

The Vadodara Municipal Corporation (VMC) has granted “conditional” permission to a controversial commercial project, housing a mall and a multiplex, on Mangal Pandey Road, subject to the proposed widening of the road. The road is now 18-metre wide, falling short of the requirements for such a construction. As per the rules of the Gujarat Development Control Rules (GDCR), any new mall housing a multiplex can be constructed on a minimum of a 30-metre wide road to contain possible congestion.

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The project, Agora-2 by the Balaji Group (Manav Infrastruct-ure Pvt Ltd), is proposed at the site of the ongoing Sanjaynagar slum rehabilitation scheme (SRS) of the VMC. The scheme has seen the demolition of 771 homes and 11 shops in three phases since 2014. The VMC awarded the project to redevelop the land, measuring 4.27 lakh square feet, under PPP model to Ahmedabad-based Manav Infrastructure Pvt. Ltd. vide a resolution on June 13, 2014. The contract also includes rebuilding of the homes for the evicted slum-dwellers.

In January this year, the project ran into controversy after the VMC began a process to procure land for widening the existing 18-metre road along the plot, mandatory for the construction of a mall. The builder had initially advertised his commercial project as a mall, putting at stake other private properties of the area. It also began constructing a retention wall along the Vishwamitri river.

The GDCR point 18, listing the regulations for malls, hyper-shopping, cinemas, multiplexes with or without malls, theatres, lecture halls and town halls, states, “The building for malls, multiplexes with or without mall shall be located directly on a road of 30 metres or more in width.”

VMC Town Development Officer (TDO) Navendu Parekh said, “We have granted conditional permission for the construction of the City Centre which will have only office spaces and shops. There is no permission given for any multiplex.” When asked to explain “conditional permission”, Parekh said, “It means that we have given the clearance subject to the proposed road-widening of 27 metre. The developer can construct a foundation assuming the road to be 27-metre-wide, but the structure should be within the permissible limits for an 18-metre-wide road. The developer has been granted an FSI (3) for the said project.”

Last year, in a public notice dated December 15, the VMC began a process to procure land on Mangal Pandey Road for widening the existing 18-metre-wide road to 27 metre, inviting objections from land owners until January 4. The civic body received several objections from private owners and other residential complexes on the edge of the proposed road-widening that has also not been cleared by the VMC’s General Board.

A bureaucrat formerly in the VMC, however, said there was no concept of “conditional permission” to be granted to a structure. The officer said, “There is no concept of conditional permission for construction. It is either in accordance with the regulations or in violation. If something is in violation, you cannot permit it with a futuristic condition. According to the GDCR rules, only single-screen cinema halls can be allowed on a road that is 18 to 24-metre wide.”

While the hoardings on the site of the mall announce, “Golden Investment Opportunity for Multiplex Space,” Balaji Group chairman Ashish Shah said that his proposed project was not a multiplex. “The project is called Agora City Centre. We are not constructing anything in violation of the GDCR. Our project includes only non-air-conditioned shops and office spaces and cinema hall. It is a city centre and not a mall. We have used the term multiplex as it is a commonly-used term for the purpose of communication,” said Shah. The group’s official website, however, describes the project as Agora Mall, Vadodara. The developer had originally put up hoardings for luxurious 2, 2.5, 3 and 4-bedroom apartments and a mall with a multiplex, bowling alley, spas and restaurants. Such hoardings have now been replaced with the group’s logo. Shah said that the website has not been updated.