Thursday, August 16, 2007

Town planning flies out of the window

Town planning flies out of the window

Afshan Yasmeen

Several loose ends as Government notifies rules on unauthorised constructions

— FILE Photo: V. Sreenivasa Murthy

LEGALISING VIOLATIONS: Scenes such as this building being demolished in Bangalore will be a thing of the past.

BANGALORE: In what is being seen by citizens’ groups as a setback to regulated urban development, the State Government on Tuesday notified final rules for regularising unauthorised constructions by levying compounding fees.

This has been done overlooking over 500 objections and suggestions from various civic organisations and even from the Bruhat Bangalore Mahanagara Palike (BBMP).

The implications of this move are far-reaching. Residential buildings with violations of up to 50 per cent and commercial buildings with deviations of up to 25 per cent can now be regularised by simply paying a fee.

According to the rules, the compounding fee (penalty) ranges from Rs. 100 a square metre to Rs. 600 a sq. m depending on the size of the area and of the plot or building.

The State Government amended the Karnataka Town and Country Planning and Other Laws Act, 2004 during its Belgaum session in September last year to facilitate regularisation.

The draft rules were published on May 17 and the public was given a June 17 deadline to file objections and suggestions. Called the new Karnataka Town and Country Planning (Regularisation of Unauthorised Development or Constructions) Rules, 2007, the scheme will come into effect from September 15. Thereafter, violators of building bye-laws can benefit from the scheme in three months.

The new rules will not only enable regularisation of building deviations but will also legalise change in land use. This means violations pertaining to setback, floor area ratio (FAR), change in land use and even basement parking can be regularised.

Simply put, regulated town planning will fly out of the window. For example, a commercial unit in a quiet residential area can function without legal hurdles. Although the rules say that all this will be done keeping in mind the regulations in the Comprehensive Development Plan (CDP), it is not clear whether this refers to the revised Master Plan or the old CDP.

The final rules specify the setting up of an appellate authority to oversee the decision of screening committees, define the competent authority and prescribe the payment of application scrutiny fee.

The draft rules had already caused some disquiet among civic groups who felt they would only encourage more people to become law-breakers.

The groups apprehend that the rules would change the basic structure of a designated area (following change in land use) and affect the quality of life. The rules do not specify whether the regularisation is a one-time process or is continuous and in perpetuity. The Government has not stipulated a cut-off date after which no violations will be regularised. The rules are accessible only on the State Government website www.municipaladmn.kar.

According to official sources, the implementation of the new rules will be difficult as there are several loose ends. These include issues pertaining to identifying, certifying and verifying the violations in buildings that have deviated more than the prescribed 50 per cent (residential) and 25 per cent (commercial). The rules do not provide for setting up a panel of architects to certify the violations.
Some relief

The only relief for the local bodies is that this scheme does not apply to buildings on encroached government land, valleys, drains, tank beds, lands that have high tension electrical lines, buildings under dispute, forest land and buildings coming in the alignment of a proposed road or rail network, the sources said.


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