Kunte letter deals blow to heritage conservation

Vasant Sagar Properties redevelopment okayed before MHCC drafted guidelines to preserve character of Marine Drive precinct,he tells state

Written by Express News Service | Mumbai | Published: July 3, 2013 1:34:12 am

Municipal commissioner Sitaram Kunte has written to the state government that the controversial Vasant Sagar Properties redevelopment project in Marine Drive was okayed much before Mumbai Heritage Conservation Committee (MHCC) drafted guidelines to preserve character of the precinct. His letter may also help redevelopment of Bal Bhavan and Birla Krida Kendra (underground aquarium).

Vasant Sagar is a 14-storey building. Eleven storeys had already come up when Bombay High Court stayed further construction on July 31,2012,on a PIL filed by Federation of Churchgate Residents (FCR).

FCR said the highrise would mar heritage character of Marine Drive precinct. The building received BMC permission in 2011 when MHCC was yet to be reconstituted.

Kunte has drawn attention of the state government to the larger issue of the need for redevelopment vis-a-vis heritage conservation.

“It is a value conflict – how to balance heritage conservation and redevelopment,and this is not a decision that can be taken according to individual whims. While redevelopment means increasing the height of a structure,conservation involves restricting height – we will need to involve policy discussions at the state level to see which of the two gains precedence. A harmonising policy will have to be formed remembering that redevelopment cannot be restricted,” a source in BMC summed up the report.

Vasant Sagar redevelopment project was permitted by Kunte predecessor Subodh Kumar.

A source in the civic body said,“According to development control regulations,permissions were given for construction of the building before the heritage conservation committee drafted guidelines for Marine Drive precinct. These guidelines cannot be applied with retrospective effect.”

Kunte report may come as a blow to conservation efforts that recently received a boost when MHCC reiterated its 2003 guidelines in April for construction activity in the proposed Marine Drive heritage precinct. He has sought a “democratic discussion” on the guidelines awaiting notification from the urban development department since a heritage tag for the neighbourhood was first vetted in 1999.

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