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Thursday, March 23, 2006

Highrise grows in heritage compound


Read this article in The Telegraph (March 23'06). Is this a good idea? Desperate calls for desperate times??!!

The Calcutta Municipal Corporation (CMC), for the first time, has allowed a construction on the premises of a heritage building, in an effort to raise funds for the upkeep of old structures with historical significance.

The owners of the 206-year-old Cossimbazar Rajbati, in Sealdah, will have to pay the civic body Rs 1 crore in return for the nod to their proposal of constructing a 20-storeyed building.

Civic director-general (building) Gorachand Mondol said the building would come up on four bighas in the Rajbati compound, at a cost of Rs 100 crore. The proposal is awaiting clearance from the state pollution control board.

“I think it is a good decision. The city is rich in heritage structures, but most of them are in a poor state because the CMC lacks funds to preserve them,” said mayor Bikash Ranjan Bhattacharyya.

Officials said the Rs 1 crore that would come to the civic coffers from the Sealdah property would be spent on the heritage structures whose owners either are reluctant to maintain them or cannot afford the upkeep.

Though the new building will overshadow the heritage structure, the civic body’s heritage committee (the members include Ramananda Bandopadhyay, Samir Rakshit and Barun De) cleared the proposal — subsequently ratified by the mayoral council — because the Rajbati does not possess any unique architectural value.

Mayor Bhattacharyya and municipal commissioner Alapan Bandyopadhyay had imposed one condition on the Rajbati owners — they would have to pay the civic body Rs 1 crore. The owners readily agreed.

The heritage rules not only prevent redevelopment of a heritage structure, but bar construction even on a vacant plot that falls within its boundary. Going by the rules, the CMC had abandoned its project to set up a commercial complex in the Town Hall compound nine years ago.

Cossimbazar Rajbati — the only one in the city without a thakurdalan — figured on the primary list of 76 heritage structures published by the Calcutta Metropolitan Development Authority, under the Land Use and Development Control Planning Act, 1996. Subsequently, more than 1,100 structures have been added to the list.

The building at 302, APC Road stands on 20 bighas. Built in 1800 by then superintendent of Calcutta Mint James Forbes, it was originally a single-storeyed structure. In 1824, the building was purchased by Raja Harinath Nundi, scion of the Cossimbazar royal family, who added a storey to it.


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