Municipal Commissioner Ajoy Mehta’s submission to the Supreme Court granting special height permissions for redevelopment of buildings along Marine Drive in South Mumbai, has led to apprehensions among local residents who fear congestion on the narrow lanes of the iconic Queen’s Necklace, along side the marring of the heritage fabric of the Art Deco precinct.
Ashok Rao, a resident and a petitioner in the case filed first in the Bombay High court in 2012, has stated that permission to build above the permitted height should be given only in exceptional cases.
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“The commissioner has gone above the opinion of two consecutive heritage committees and didn’t even consider the response of the committee in his submission,” Rao said.
He added that the residents were contemplating fresh litigation against the draft guidelines.
On January 11 this year, acting on directions of the Supreme Court, Mehta had submitted draft guidelines for redevelopment of Marine Drive buildings. According to the new guidelines, Mehta had recommended that the height of the front row of buildings that face the sea be raised from the existing limit of 24 metres to 32 metres and the height of the row of buildings behind the seafront buildings
be raised from 24 metres to 58 metres. Of the other two zones in Marine Drive, the draft guidelines propose that the height of the Gymkhana zone buildings be increased from 11-14 metres to 24 metres and Chowpatty zone buildings be increased from 21 metres to 32 metres.
Residents pointed out that redevelopment of the buildings would add to the congestion on the already narrow roads.
Atul Kumar, trustee of the Nariman Point Churchgate Citizens Welfare Trust, said, “The roads in the area are all narrow and have one-way traffic. There is a 40,000-seater Wankhede stadium that exits on the D Road, three colleges, a hostel and residential buildings. Any kind of development in the area will make traffic movement a nightmare.”
The matter in court originally pertained to permissions given by former municipal commissioner Subodh Kumar for increasing height of the Vasant Sagar building to 58 metres. The matter is now pending in the Supreme Court.
A civic official stated that the BMC had followed the directions of the apex court which had stated that the policy has to be made general for all buildings and could not be applied to select buildings.
“The only legal contention raised in court is the area’s identity as a heritage precinct. The ‘line of vision’ to maintain the skyline will not be compromised. The rest, including fire-fighting norms, will be dealt with in the Developmental Control Regulations,” the official said.