Monday, June 15, 2009

Incentives to protect heritage properties In Mumbai

In a bid to rein in the steady metamorphosis of bungalows into highrises, art deco single-screen theatres into multiplexes and quaint two-storeyed buildings in South Mumbai into towers with glass and steel façades, the state government is planning to award incentives to owners of listed heritage properties. 

The Mumbai Heritage Conservation Committee is studying ways to reward conservation of the remaining vestiges of city’s architectural history. This may range from waivers on property tax, entertainment tax rebate in case of theatres, soft loans or grants for restoration of the property, declaring special zones for heritage, liberal use of heritage TDR or giving income tax benefits on money spent on conserving such properties. 

“Under the current heritage regulatory framework, there is a substantial liability on the home owner once his property is listed as a heritage structure with no benefit for him,” said Pankaj Joshi, executive director of Urban Design Research Institute (UDRI). 

On instructions from the state Urban Development Department, the heritage committee is now studying reports submitted by the Bombay Environmental Action Group (BEAG) and another by a committee under former heritage committee chief DM Sukthankar so as to make heritage conservation viable in Mumbai. “We are compiling extracts from each of the regulations to prepare revised heritage regulations for the city,” said heritage committee chief DK Afzalpurkar. 

The BEAG report, for instance, recommends the practice in Hyderabad where no building permission is issued if the owner deliberately allows his property to deteriorate and crumble eventually. “In order to make it viable for owners, we have also recommended that they be allowed to have commercial establishments in residential zones as long as the listed structure is maintained as it is,” said Shyam Chainani of BEAG. 

City-based historian Sharada Dwivedi points out that when the heritage listing was initially done, several privately owned heritage structures were listed as grade 3 just because the owners were financially incapable of maintaining the high standards of façade and interiors meant for grade 2 structures. “Today many of these have been bought over by builders and razed down.”

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