The Maharashtra government will request the Bombay High Court on Tuesday to allow it to implement the amended cluster policy, if only for the island city. Even though Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan approved the new cluster policy last week, a final notification on the policy cannot be issued due to a court-affected stay on all urban renewal schemes in view of perceived strain on infrastructure.
Responding to a public interest litigation (PIL) challenging the state’s failure to carry out any impact assessment studies before approving cluster redevelopment policy that is set to significantly densify cities, the High Court on July 28 restrained the state from granting any further increase in floor space index for such schemes. In view of the court stay, the CM-led state urban development (UD) department will not only exclude the suburbs from the purview of the new policy, it will also cap the FSI, which is the ratio of the built-up area to the plot area, to four in the island city.
The original cluster redevelopment policy was enforced in 2009 for only old and dilapidated tenanted buildings of the island city spread over a plot area of 1 acre. The draft amended policy, which was issued in November 2013, proposed to extend the scheme to all 30-year-old plus buildings spread over 2.5-acre plots in the suburbs. This was to be followed by issuing similar orders to implement the scheme in urban local bodies outside Mumbai. The draft also had several provisions to increase the incentive FSI granted to developers, so as to allow them to construct more than what is permissible under the existing scheme even in the island city, a plan that has now been shelved in view of the court-imposed stay.
The government will, however, allow letters of intent to be issued to proposed cluster projects as long as the builder has consent from 70 per cent of the landlords in the island city, instead of the existing requirement of 100 per cent consent. Moreover, the state will step in and help private developers acquire the property of the non-consenting 30 per cent owners only if the structure has been declared as dangerous for habitation and not as a blanket practice as was proposed in the draft notification.
The Indian Express had reported that the CM had for long delayed giving his nod to the draft amended policy as he was not in favour of the government forcibly acquiring property from non-consenting residents or landlords despite lobbying from certain sections of developers.
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The state government will on Tuesday file its affidavit detailing the above changes after consulting the Advocate General for his opinion. “On Saturday, the CM held a meeting to discuss the issue, following which it was decided that the UD department should take a stand to allow the scheme to continue in the island city with some changes,” said a senior state government official.
The court’s decision on the government’s stand will have a direct bearing on the two existing cluster schemes in Mumbai – One Avighna Park by Nish Developers’ in Currey Road and the 16.5-acre Bhendi Bazaar project by the Saifee Burhani Upliftment Trust.