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‘NA’ spelled the doom for ‘heritage’ Willingdon bungalows

This confusion between BMC and MHCC also endangers 60 other heritage precincts on the list.

Written by Alison Saldanha | Published: June 11, 2013 3:18:36 am

The demolition of five century-old bungalows in Willingdon Colony in Santacruz (W) on June 6 was the outcome of conflicting interpretation of the “non-applicable” grade given to the heritage precinct,featured on Mumbai Heritage Conservation Committee’s (MHCC) newly proposed list of heritage structures in the city.

This confusion between BMC and MHCC also endangers 60 other heritage precincts on the list.

In reply to an RTI application filed on April 25 by Sumer Associates,developers and new landowners of the 5.5-acre plot in Willingdon Colony,the deputy municipal architect said ‘NA’ meant ‘not applicable’.

“The property was recommended by MHCC to be included in the draft proposed heritage list which has been published by BMC. Regarding the meaning of NA,it means not applicable as no grade has been assigned to the property,” reads the RTI response.

On June 6,armed with the RTI reply,a Supreme Court (SC) verdict in their favour and requisite permissions from the slum redevelopment authority (SRA),Sumer Associates bulldozed five of 25 cottages constructed between 1912 and 1917.

SC had given the green signal to redevelopment of the 5.5-acre plot two months ago,but the project hit a roadblock after MHCC objected to the sanction for redevelopment under SRA as the cottages were not demarcated as slums.

Meanwhile,V Ranganathan,chairman of MHCC,said heritage precincts listed as ‘NA’ were still under MHCC scrutiny.

“The grade NA for heritage precincts does not mean that it is not applicable. We only grade structures individually,but precincts are very much part of the heritage list. If somebody comes forward with questions regarding this grade,we will clarify it,” he said.

A member of the heritage committee said apart from acquiring an NOC from MHCC,proposed changes in precincts were subject to guidelines being discussed.

“Alterations to buildings in a heritage precinct are subject to approvals from MHCC. NA does not mean not applicable. All heritage precincts,including the historic buildings in Fort,Kala Ghoda,Marine Drive,have been graded ‘NA’ and Willingdon Colony is subject to the same rules,” said the committee member. Over 60 precincts between Mumbai,Borivali and Chembur feature in the draft heritage list published in July 2012.

In September 2012,BMC chief Sitaram Kunte contentiously said the proposed redevelopment of 300 structures around the city could carry on,as the list was still a draft proposal that required approval from the state urban development department.

The state-appointed MHCC issued a notice to the civic chief reminding him that such decisions could not be made without consulting the committee first.

MHCC said it treats all listed properties as notified until further notice.

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