The powers of the Mumbai Heritage Conservation Committee (MHCC) have been curtailed in the under-revision Development Plan of the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC), and several recommendations made by past committees have been disregarded, a former heritage committee chairperson said.
Heritage conservationists and architects in the city are also unhappy that their suggestions regarding the empowering of the MHCC and on incentivising the preservation of heritage structures by private owners were not incorporated in the draft regulations.
The two new draft chapters of the Development Control Regulations, Section III of the under-revision DP were released Monday including one chapter on special provisions, mainly for heritage buildings.
Like the existing system, the new regulations state that the civic chief can overrule decisions by the MHCC, despite activists having long sought more teeth for the committee. Besides, letters written to the government by the chairmen of the two previous heritage committees, DK Afzalpurkar and V Ranganathan, both stressed on the need to incentivise preservation and proper maintenance of heritage buildings.
Apart from granting income tax and municipal tax benefits, the suggestions also include earmarking of heritage conservation funds and concessional interest on loans for repairs and restoration of heritage buildings.
“Incentivisation and penalties in times of deliberate neglect are important rules since they can urge people to care for their heritage. But none of these has been included in the Development Control Rules,” said a former MHCC chairman.
Heritage conservationist Aabha Lambah said the fresh regulations are in the draft stage. She said that the process of application for work on a heritage structure should be dealt with on a fast track basis and applicants should be able to track their application online so that people don’t feel disadvantaged because their own structures are protected monuments.
Meanwhile, the Urban Design Research Institute, in letters to the DP department, has expressed concerns that the new regulations appear to give the civic chief additional discretionary powers to grant permissions and relief in various matters.
One letter dated March 23 contends that the commissioner should not be the ultimate authority in cases of change of zoning, demarcation of plots without referring to the relevant portions of the Act.