Breathing space gets a new lease of life

Feb 01 2014, 10:29 IST
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A Supreme Court ruling on open spaces in Mumbai plugs a loophole exploited by developers, setting a precedent on development control norms across the country. A Supreme Court ruling on open spaces in Mumbai plugs a loophole exploited by developers, setting a precedent on development control norms across the country.
SummaryA Supreme Court ruling on open spaces in Mumbai plugs a loophole exploited by developers.

A recent ruling given by the Supreme Court has far-reaching implications for the construction of residential buildings and for the quality of life of residents. In one line, the order states “there is a need to restrict the additional pressure on existing infrastructure so that it does not affect the quality of life”. Although the order is primarily meant for Mumbai, it sets a precedent on development control that could be applicable for any civic body across the country.

Home buyers in Mumbai and experts The Indian Express spoke to, have welcomed the ruling for it bats in favour of increased green spaces. Developers, however, are disappointed with the order and are planning to appeal against it.

The Case

The Supreme Court in the case of Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai (MCGM) versus Kohinoor CTNL Infrastructure Company Pvt Ltd examined the relaxations given in the mandatory norms regarding open spaces to certain category of projects. In the judgement delivered on December 17, 2013, Justices Hemant Gokhale and J Chelameswar termed these relaxations that enable “more construction” and “concretisation” as leading “to the serious erosion of recreational space at the ground level, affecting the minimum necessities of life, and will therefore lead to violation of the right to life”.

To understand the import of these observations, it is necessary to look at how development is regulated by the civic body, the MCGM in this case.

Like every civic body in the country, the MCGM has laid down several development regulations for Mumbai known as Development Control Regulations (DCRs). These were revised in 1991. The issue placed before the Supreme Court in the Kohinoor CTNL case was the mandatory minimum recreational area to be left for the residents at the ground level.

Spaced out

A rule called DCR 23 states that each project must leave mandatorily, a minimum space of 15-25 per cent as open (recreational) space at the”ground level”.

The extent of open space is related to the size of the plot. For a plot size of 1,500-2,500 sq metres, the open space has to be minimum 15 per cent and for the plot of 2,500-10,000 sq metres, it should be at least 20 per cent and for plots larger than 10,000 sq metres, it must be at least 25 per cent.

However, developers began arguing that due to the high demand for parking spaces, they have to build parking lots in the basement and on the podium.

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