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BMC chief Ajoy Mehta’s decision to double heights of buildings challenged

The proposal of Municipal Commissioner Ajoy Mehta, who has recommended raising the heights of buildings in the Marine Drive Precinct, seems to have not gone down well with residents of South Mumbai. More so, in view of the recent fire in a high rise.

The residents have dragged Mehta as well as the Urban Development Department of the Maharashtra government to the Bombay High Court, challenging the proposed ‘special guidelines.’ The Federation of Churchgate Residents has filed a Public Interest Litigation in the high court seeking to quash the proposed ‘Special Guidelines for the Marine Drive Precinct.’

The residents have termed the new guidelines as ‘arbitrary and illegal.’ They argue that the new set of guidelines would diminish and destroy the value and beauty of all the heritage structures situated in the Marine Drive Precinct. They have further contended that the enforcement of these guidelines will have a direct impact on Mumbai’s ‘nomination’ for the UNSECO heritage list.

In their petition, the residents have claimed that Mehta has finalised the guidelines without follow-ing orders of the Bombay High Court as well as the provisions of the Development Control Regulations (DCR), 1991. “Instead of preparing final general guidelines for height of re-constructed buildings in excess of 24 metres in  accordance with the DC  regulations, 1991, the civic chief has prepared guidelines for special permission to re-development projects in Marine Drive precinct,” the plea reads.

Having admitted the PIL, a division bench headed by Justice Ravindra Borde has issued notices to Mehta and the UDD secretary, seeking their response to the plea. According to the proposed new set of guidelines, Mehta has recommended raising the height of the front row buildings of Marine Drive, which fall in the Backbay zone, from the existing limit of 24 metres to 32 metres. The proposal also recommends increasing the height of the buildings behind the Backbay zone from 24 metres to 58 metres. Further, these guidelines, which were sent to UDD by Mehta in April last year, have proposed an increase in the height of buildings falling in the Gymkhana zone from 11–14 metres to 24 metres. Also, the buildings in the Chowpatty zone are proposed to be increased from 21 metres to 32 metres.

It may be noted that the entire issue of heights first came to light in 2012, when the BMC had permitted Vasant Sagar Properties Private Limited to construct a building on its property with a height of 58 metres. Even then, the civic body was dragged to the court, which had eventually quashed the permission. The court had in its judgment directed the civic body and also the Mumbai Heritage Conservation Committee (MHCC) to draft guidelines for regulating the heights of buildings in South Mumbai (A ward).

Proposal to raise height of front row buildings of Marine Drive, which fall in Backbay zone, from existing limit of 24 metres to  32 metres. Also proposed, raising the height of buildings behind Backbay zone from 24 m to 58 m. Increase in height of buildings falling in Gymkhana zone from 11–14 metres to 24 metres proposed. Height of buildings in Chowpatty zone is proposed to be increased from 21 metres to 32 metres.

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