In its guidelines submitted to the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) for the proposed Chembur precinct, the Mumbai Heritage Conservation Committee (MHCC) has specified a height limit of 24 metres for redevelopment of heritage structures.
The Chembur precinct is one of the oldest in the city comprising three sub-precincts – Chembur Gaothan, St Anthony’s, and Old Chembur that adjoin each other – and possessing low-scale development with abundant green cover. It has 502 structures and buildings. The sub-precincts differ in their physical and socio-cultural characters as their religious linkages have imparted a distinct identity and a sense of belonging to the communities residing within.
The report has been prepared by the MHCC-appointed Mumbai Metropolitan Region Heritage Conservation Society (MMR-HCS). It had in 2006-07 carried out the listing of the neighbourhood and suggested that the entire area be listed as a heritage precinct.
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“Because of height and other restrictions, if it is not possible for the owner to use the full development rights available to him (including incentive Floor Space Index) in redevelopment, the difference between the full development rights and the actual FSI used should be made available to the owner as incentive Transferred Development Rights (TDR), to be utilised outside the precinct,” the committee’s report said.
In its guidelines, MMR-HCS has proposed a height restriction of 24 metres for all plots up to terrace level in the Old Chembur and St Anthony’s precinct, while the Chembur Gaothan faces a cap of 12 metres. The guidelines also suggest prohibiting widening of existing roads, sub-division or amalgamation of existing plots, permission to cut trees here, and application of TDR within the precinct.
The proposed listing, however, faces vehement opposition from local residents, who have filed a PIL in the Bombay High Court challenging the tag and the restrictions it brings along with. As per the HC directions, the MHCC and the Heritage Review committee must suggest preservation guidelines to Municipal Commissioner Sitaram Kunte. In two months, a final report will be submitted to the state government before it is presented to the HC.
While no-objection certificates (NOCs) from the MHCC will not be needed for non-structural repairs and renovation, the committee proposes to allow major changes in the footprint of the property on the rear end of the building (which is not road-facing), subject to norms for marginal open spaces within the plot. These alterations are to maintain the structures existing forms, and prevent absorption of any of its characteristic traits.
The MHCC report has significant bearing on the precinct with a number of major infrastructure projects such as the Eastern Freeway, the Santacruz Chembur Link Road, the Monorail and to an extent the Mumbai Metro Line 1, making Chembur the new connecting point and turning it into the latest hub for real estate projects.
A few months ago, a proposal to grade Shivaji Park precinct in Dadar as a Grade-I heritage precinct snowballed into a controversy with residents and political parties protesting against it. In a PIL filed by the residents, the HC directed the heritage review committee under Dinesh Afzalpurkar to submit a report on the proposed grading. The report suggested de-listing the precinct and instead proposed notifying it as an Area of Comprehensive Development in which special urban design laws can be applied.