Shimla: Controversy about permitting a high end gated colony in a verdant forest has not died down and a fresh one is brewing as planners have amended Shimla city building regulations by removing the cap on number of floors allowed and paving the way for skyscrapers to be built even in geologically sensitive and sinking areas.
Diluting the concepts of core area and heritage zone, an amendment notification of 28, February, 2011 permits land use changes that was not allowed earlier.
More, where there was a cap between 2 to 4 floors permitted for different city zones, the new laws permit 1.5 to 1.75 floor area ratio (FAR) of built up area. FAR is a ratio derived by taking into account the plot size and permitted built up area.
Agitated over the matter, Rajiv Verma, an architect says â€œOn a large plot that has many trees, under the law one can construct a skyscraper of 20 or more stories within FAR regulations on a small clear patch where construction can take place.â€
â€œThere being no capping on floors permitted would simply play havoc with Shimlaâ€™s skyline. On a 1000 sq meter wooded plot where construction can take place only on 50 sq meters, one cannot legally hold up a 30 storied building with permissible 1.5 FAR regulations from being constructed,â€ Verma apprehends.
Concerned about the cityâ€™s heritage, Verma has moved the High Court taking it up as a matter of public interest. The case comes up for hearing on 1st August.
Defending the governmentâ€™s action, director town and country planning, Purnima Chauhan says, â€œFAR is guiding principal for buildings all over the country and thatâ€™s what has been adopted here also.â€
Whereas the town planners have been unable to formulate a city master plan for 32 years, under an interim development plan (IDP) that was notified in March, 1979, the number of stories had been kept between 2 to 4 for different zones and the building height had been capped between 9.5 meters in core areas to 18.80 meters in unrestricted ones.
The tallest structures violating the skyline laws are the 11 storied High Court building, which recently was surpassed by a 12 storied incomplete structure that will house a ropeway to Jakhoo Hill.
A clause permitting only single storied structures in high sinking or sliding prone areas has been diluted by providing for discretionary powers to allow structures within FAR specifications to be considered for approval even in these zones.
Northern slope of the historic Ridge extending to Grand Hotel in the west and Lakkar Bazar in the east is defined as a high sinking prone area.
Each year some portion of this zone sinks and in recent rains a section of Ridge gave way posing danger to Gaiety Theater, a century old heritage building.