A day after Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis cancelled a directive issued to the Mumbai municipality regarding additional construction rights for ongoing redevelopments of Mumbai’s textile mills, questions have been raised over the fate of two proposals cleared under the directive. On April 23 this year, just two days before the CM sanctioned Mumbai’s new development plan, the state’s Urban Development department had proposed a major modification to the development control (DC) rules in the outgoing plan for mill land redevelopments.
The modification had basically given retrospective effect for enhancement of the floor space index (FSI) benefit granted to mill owners for surrendering mandatory land areas for public recreational grounds (RG) to the Mumbai municipality in the past and had even availed such a compensation in part or full in the past and could have led to a construction bonanza for ongoing mill revamp projects.
While the proposed modification itself is under the scanner, directives issued by the CM-led department under section 154(1) of the Maharashtra Regional and Town Planning Act, 1966, to implement the proposal pending the hearing of public suggestions and objections and a final sanction to the modification had become a bone of contention. The directives were issued on April 23 itself.
Even as the MRTP section gives the state government powers to issue directives to local bodies for “implementing or bringing into effect central and state government programmes or project or for efficient administration of the Act, or in larger public interest”, a division bench of the Bombay High Court had in 2011 ruled that the provision cannot be used for circumventing the public suggestion and objection process before modifying a DC rule.
As reported by The Indian Express on Saturday, the Mumbai municipality had already approved plans granting an additional construction benefit of 29,827 square feet to Indiabulls Infraestate Limited, which is redeveloping the Bharat Mills and Poddar Processers mill campus in Lower Parel, and 70,117 square feet to Shreeniwas Cotton Mills Limited that is part of the Lodha group, which is revamping the Shreeniwas Mill in the same locality.
Civic records show that both have availed the FSI benefit in lieu of the surrendered RG area in the past. According to official records, the Mumbai municipality had approved the revised layout, including the enhanced FSI benefit for the Indiabulls property on May 21, while in the case of Shreeniwas mill, it was cleared on May 25.
While the civic body had also received a proposal from the centre-run National Textiles Corporation, which had earlier surrendered a 7.10 lakh square feet RG space to the civic body, for a similar benefit, but this was not approved till the cancellation of the directive. Mumbai civic commissioner Ajoy Mehta, when contacted, confirmed that the revised layouts had been approved in the two cases. But he said that the permission for commencement of construction for the revised plans had not been given in either case.
“Since the government has withdrawn the directive, I’ve asked my officers not to process the commencement certificate permission for these constructions,” Mehta said. But a senior town planner said that both the developers were within their legal right to claim that their approval had already been processed. Sources meanwhile said that the government is wary of being criticised for favouring select builders and has asked officials to ensure that the permissions are not granted for now.
Earlier on November 11, 2016, the Devendra Fadnavis government had hiked the FSI/TDR for those who surrendered land areas for the reservation free of any encroachments. In the island city where the mill land are situated and where real estate prices command a premium, the hike was substantial from 1.33 times the surrendered land area to 2.5 times.
While the government had then ruled that the enhanced benefit was to be given prospective effect and would not be eligible for cases of earlier land acquisition or developments where compensation in the form of FSI/TDR or any other means had already been paid partly or fully, the April 23 modification and the controversial directive had diluted this clause for mill land developers. Incidentally, Mumbai’s new development plan grants just 1.33 times the surrendered land area as benefit in mill land developments.
Questions are also being raised over the civic administration’s decision not to apply stringent of the provisions between the newly sanctioned development plan and the old plan once the former had been notified.