The Bhendi Bazaar cluster redevelopment in South Mumbai — Mumbai’s biggest housing project — has hit a hurdle. The BMC has declined to sanction the developer’s plan of providing the compulsory green space or recreational area at the podium level. This has stalled further approvals for the 16.5-acre project that involves redevelopment of 250 buildings.
Denying the nod, the BMC has cited a Supreme Court ruling of 2013 that mandates minimum 15 to 25 per cent of the plot area as recreational open space at the ground level.
The developer, Saifee Burhani Upliftment Trust (SBUT), however, claimed that initial approvals for the project — the Letter of Intent and permissions to construct transit shelters — for the multi-crore project were granted prior to the SC ruling. Sources said that the Fadnavis-led urban development department has decided to seek legal opinion in the matter from the state’s advocate general Anil Singh. However, the government is wary of granting approval in the Bhendi Bazaar case, as it could lead to a spurt in applications from developers of other housing projects that were forced to amend their plans following the SC verdict.
Rule 23 of Development Control Regulations applicable for Mumbai mandate the creation of 15-25 per cent recreational open space at the ground level. The state, in an amendment in January 2012, had permitted that space on a podium.
A Supreme Court bench of Justices Hemant Gokhale and J Chelameswar had, however, struck down this amendment on December 17, 2013, claiming that it posed “serious questions of reduction of compulsory green spaces and fire safety hazards”. Following this, the BMC stopped sanctioning all projects providing the mandatory recreational area at the podium level. Sources said that these included proposals where similar initial permissions had been granted before the SC ruling.
The Bhendi Bazaar project involves rehabilitation of 20,000 people —- 3,200 residential families and 1,250 commercial establishments —- in 17 highrise towers. The SBUT has argued that providing the mandatory recreational area at the ground level was not technically and commercially viable owing to congested bylanes that are being transformed under redevelopment. It has said that the redevelopment project in fact envisages greening of the locality. Besides recreational area at the podium, the plan involves planting 700 trees and shrubs across the 16.5 acre area, it has argued. It has said that the podium recreational area was being considered in all towers, so that all tenants will also enjoy full access to these. It has pointed out that the “master plan” for the urban renewal project has been widely appreciated.
Attempts to contact Abbas Master, CEO of SBUT, were futile.