EVEN before Mumbai’s new Development Plan (DP) is formally adopted, the commercial capital may have already overshot projections on the mean floor space index (FSI) for construction activity. While the new DP caps the permissible FSI at 2, or two times the plot size, Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis has already publicised his intention of hiking this up to 2.5. FSI is a development tool that defines the extent of construction permissible on a plot, a ratio of the permissible built-up area to the plot area.
On January 8, the Chief Minister-led Urban Development (UD) department issued a notification that proposed modifications in the prevalent development control regulations (DCR, 1991) for allowing additional FSI in the island city of Mumbai on payment of a premium. Sources, however, confirmed that the notification, on which suggestions and objections have now been invited, was mainly intended at revising the mean FSI level proposed in the new DP while circumventing the need to publicise the draft revision.
“Under the Maharashtra Regional and Town Planning Act, the government would have required publication of a ‘draft excluded plan’ if the revision had directly been introduced in the new DP. This would have delayed the process for sanctioning of the plan as suggestions and objections would need to be invited afresh. But with the government now proposing modification in the existing DC regulations itself, there would be no need to follow this process,” said a senior official. Sources said that the CM is keen to approve the new DP before March-end.
Following the proposed modification, the FSI permitted on wider roads across Mumbai has gone up to 2.5. Earlier, in November, 2016, the government had hiked the extent of transferable development rights (TDR) that could be loaded on plots in both the island city and the suburbs.
Ironically, Mumbai’s Development Plan, which had mapped the existing FSI levels and population projections till 2034, had found that a universal base FSI of 2 would be sufficient to cater to the “housing and employment” requirements of Mumbai till 2034. On the basis of a per capita residential space demand of 27 square metres, the new DP had proposals for building housing stock of over 34,853 hectares. It had projected that about 13,337 hectare out of the city’s total area (47,624 hectare) could be used for the development. Meanwhile, the UD notification has had another fallout.
“The proposed amendment reinforced the maximum limit of the FSI admissible for a plot,” officials confirmed. Ironically, the UD itself withdrew such a cap in November, 2016, but has reintroduced it now. “It is another instance that shows the utter confusion that prevails in the Mumbai’s town planning department,” said a senior architect, who wished not to be named.
Following the notification, the Mumbai municipality has issued a circular for immediate implementation of the higher cap on FSI while approving building proposals. “The UD has declared its intention of modifying the Development Control regulations. As per the proposed modification, the FSI admissible is now limited. Since the government has published its intention, it is mandatory to enforce stringent provisions among the existing as well as the proposed modifications,” said civic commissioner Ajoy Mehta.
On January 10, Mehta’s office issued a circular for all engineers of the building proposals and development plan departments asking them to enforce the FSI cap in all cases from January 8 onwards. Officials have been directed to revoke building permissions issued contradicting the proposed amendment on or after January 8.
The Practicing Engineers, Architects, and Town Planners Association (India), however, has raised serious objections over the circular. It contended that the enforcement of the cap would throw several ongoing redevelopments in the suburbs of Mumbai off-gear. Redevelopments, where a portion of the plot is to be handed over as setback for road widening, will be adversely hit. Previously, the FSI compensation in lieu of the portion surrendered was being permitted over and above the permissible FSI, but this has now been discontinued. Citing the government notification, the municipality has also discontinued allowing additional FSI on premium payment on plots abutting roads less than 30 feet in width. Sources confirmed that the civic commissioner has also expressed concern over the adverse impact that the move could have on suburban redevelopment.