Heritage in Draft Development Plan: A Critique

This article is based on my inputs to Janwani’s analysis of the Draft DP that culminated into suggestions for modifications submitted to the PMC in 2014. I may have added or changed some parts before posting here.

Municipalities have within their scope and function, the ‘promotion of cultural, educational and aesthetic aspects’ of a city and ‘Urban forestry, protection of environment and promotion of ecological aspects’ (Article 243-W (13) & (8) of The Constitution (Seventy Fourth Amendment) Act 1992)[1]. Thus the Draft Development Plan for Old City published by the PMC includes a section on development and re-development of the built heritage of Pune. It is prepared by the Heritage Conservation Committee of PMC. The heritage plan is reviewed in the subsequent sections.

Development Control Rules (DCR) for Heritage Properties

The Draft DP for Heritage is set against the background of four important Acts, viz.

Much of its subject matter is drawn from the Model Building Byelaws[3] proposed by the Ministry of Urban Development, GoI. However, while doing so it has not adhered to the Byelaws in its entirety thus leaving a scope for major implementation gaps in the plan.

Framework for Heritage in Draft DP

Framework in DP

Critique of Heritage Section of Development Plan

PMC’s approach to heritage is vague and myopic

  • Heritage within the framework of the proposed Draft DP is limited to built heritage structures. This limits the scope of conservation to merely architectural interventions to buildings or sites. The definitions of various heritage terms are inadequate in further listing of local heritage sites and structures, for instance, in case of heritage precinct a lot is left to the imagination of the team that is listing the heritage sites and structures.
  • Further an analysis of the Grade classification shows that the distinctions between grade categories is unclear, for instance, in case of classification of Grade II structure, what would “lower scale than heritage in Grade I” imply? It should be noted that the Grade III categorization includes the cityscapes of cultural, architectural and social value which in this study implies the historic areas. However, the Grade III heritage has fewer restrictions on the structural development and re-development and requires only the permission of the Planning Authority in consonance with the set conservation guidelines. This implies that the heritage rules do not adequately protect the geographical aspects of the historic areas.
  • Considering that the Draft DP is applicable for a period of twenty years the vision for heritage as expressed through the DCRs is myopic and weak. The proposed draft for the Old City limits states as its objective in DP the ‘revitalisation of the old city by decongesting the core area through relocation of specific economic infrastructure like markets, wholesale and trade centres etc. to appropriate locations on periphery’. Since there is no description of what type of businesses will be relocated one wonders if this also implies displacement of traditional occupations or small businesses that thrive on cultural resources available in the historic areas. This point can be further linked to the DCR for the proposed Metro Project where instead of decongesting historic areas in Metro Influence Zone, PMC has proposed densification.
  • PMC has drafted the heritage regulations on the lines of the Model Building Byelaws but while doing so it has ignored important sections that refer to decisive action against those who violate the regulations. The Model Byelaws states that in case of a proved deliberate neglect of and/or damage to Heritage Buildings and Precincts or if the same is allowed to be damaged or destroyed then a strict action should be taken based on the Unauthorized Construction Act and additionally no new building permission should be granted without appropriate permission of Municipal Commissioner who acts as per the advice of the Heritage Committee(Planning Commission of India, 2014).
  • DP further states regulated development in the surrounding areas of Grade I structures however, it doesn’t mention any specific rules regarding the nature of permissible development or re-development in the said area.

Process of listing of heritage structures in DP

  • DP states the process of listing but it doesn’t address the implications of listing barring a mere mention that the listing doesnot prevent a change of ownership and usage. In reality it is found that no sooner the heritage site listing process is announced several old buildings are razed in the anticipation of losing any benefits from development rights over the property. This anxiety stems from a misgiving that heritage buildings are old dilapidated structures of no value. The DP should in fact aim to propagate the value of heritage and project it as an irreversible resource.
  • The proposed heritage list annexed to the Draft DP should be updated as several heritage sites are unidentifiable based on the vague location details provided. Also through media reports it is seen that some of the listed heritage structures do no longer exist. The delay in finalizing the DP and notifying the heritage list has led to demolition of some heritage structures. It is also not clear how the listing of heritage sites was carried out in the earlier period as no information to this effect is given.
  • The DP makes no distinction between heritage structures that are occupied or vacant or any other categorization based on their functionality. Any intervention needed for heritage buildings vary with their condition and functionality. Given a relatively small number of heritage sites that are listed it is quite possible for the PMC to have a unique conservation plan for each structure.

 Grant of transferable development rights (TDR) in case of loss of development rights

TDR note

  • The TDR incentive is not coupled with any other measure to ensure that the TDR benefits will be utilised for the conservation purpose. The URDPFI guidelines suggest that the TDR tool should be carefully used in association with other measures such as proposing permissible uses for the heritage areas on the basis of its plot size and floor, amalgamation or sub-division should not be permitted in the zone and conserving the various aspects of heritage buildings such as all facades, building footprint, character of open spaces etc should be made compulsory.
  • With the rising land prices it is possible that the TDR benefit will be consumed by the owner and the heritage structure will be left to decay, in due course of time the building will be unworthy to inhabit and therefore erased thus making the land available to the owner for selling.

Urban planning experts involved with Janwani’s analysis suggested that the TDR benefits for heritage buildings as mentioned in DP are inadequate for the following reasons:-

  • The DP has been vague about the type (eg. Religious, residential, commercial etc) of heritage building eligible for TDR benefits and whether the tradable FSI varies with the type.
  • It also fails to mention whether the TDR benefits will be given all in one-time or in instalments.
  • The exact nature of compensation in monetary terms remains ambiguous. DRC price is highly variable depending on the location and area of the city.
  • In determining the benefits from TDR the condition of heritage property is absolutely ignored. If the condition of the property is much poor and the DRC price is inadequate then what is the owner supposed to do? Thus TDR benefits mentioned do not help heritage conservation.
  • TDR should not be granted to vacant/ un-occupied heritage properties including dilapidated or partly damaged properties unless the same is utilized for suitable purpose by special use / rental, after any necessary repairs or maintenance.
  • Certain percent of the amount from the sale of Special DRC for heritage properties shall be drawn towards the Heritage Conservation Fund as a premium fee. In lieu of this the Heritage Conservation Fund should have a provision to insure heritage property and provide for interest free loans for any conservation activity to private owners.
  • The beneficiary of the TDR will have to search for developers who are in need of 0.05 FSI. There have to be regulations to guide the beneficiary over the utilization of TDR.

Special Regulations for heritage precincts

The Heritage Precinct definition in Draft DP is vague and non-applicable to Pune’s heritage scenario yet there are a few heritage precincts identified the basis for which is not clarified. report. The special regulations therefore seem merely a cut-paste job on part of the Heritage Committee. Under this regulation the skyline in the precinct is to be maintained (without any high-rise development as may exist in the surrounding area, so as not to diminish or destroy the value and beauty of the said building precincts). However, the DCR do not mention the proposed height for structures in the precinct area.

Heritage Conservation Fund (HCF)

Although the primary responsibility for the maintenance of the “Listed” heritage buildings remains that of the owner(s), a HCF is proposed to give monetary support for the maintenance / repairs. Provisions for the fund shall be made through the District Planning and Development Council (DPDC) Budget. Where the development work is done through the Municipal Corporation, 2% of the total development charges collected shall be transferred to the HCF, expenses made by PMC shall also be recovered from the arrears of the property tax paid by the owner(s). The other funding sources include Budgetary provision through P.M.C, DPDC, Grants from Central / State / Semi-government bodies, Donations from Industrialists / Businessman. The Fund has not happened so far. There seems to be no political will in conserving the heritage of Pune. Also the Corporates have no incentives to donate to such a Fund.

[1] The 74th Amendment to the constitution established the relation of State government and urban local bodies. It provided constitutional status to Municipality and thus brought the matter of heritage conservation and promotion within the legal purview at the urban area level.

[2] From the unpublished collaborative work on an assessment of heritage laws by Modern Law College, Pune and the author of this report in her capacity as the Deputy Director of Heritage at Janwani in 2015

[3] http://moud.gov.in/sites/upload_files/moud/files/pdf/Chap-8.pdf


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