With this, the height restriction of the Art Deco buildings stays capped at 24 m.
In an affidavit submitted before the Bombay High Court, which is hearing a public interest litigation filed earlier this year against the proposal, the BMC said it would not implement the ‘revised guidelines for the redevelopment of Marine Drive’ pending the SC hearing.
A BMC official told the court in September: “…the MCGM is not acting on the said guidelines and no permissions are being given for redevelopment based on the said guidelines.” The court recorded this an undertaking from the civic body.
Last month, the apex court refused an urgent hearing of the petition filed by Vasant Sagar Properties of Marine Drive, which is seeking to increase its height, following CJI Ranjan Gogoi’s directive that only cases involving immediate death penalty, or eviction, or property demolition be treated as urgent. It said the matter would come up “as per turn”. The BMC had also submitted its proposed guidelines in the SC.
Marine Drive has been at the centre of Mumbai’s biggest conservation versus development battle for a few years now. Municipal Commissioner Ajoy Mehta had in 2016 recommended that buildings along Marine Drive be allowed to be raised to 58 m. In a report submitted to the Supreme Court, he had suggested that buildings in the first row facing the sea be allowed to rise up to 32 m, and those behind could be as high as 58 m. Resident groups had opposed the relaxation on the grounds that it would spur a new redevelopment frenzy and alter the precinct’s character. Six successive Mumbai Heritage Conservation Committees had upheld the height restriction of 24 m, and conservationists had expressed shock over Mehta’s decision to go against the collective wisdom of the committees.
The heritage precinct extends from the National Centre for the Performing Arts in the south to Walkeshwar in the north. It includes the Marine Drive promenade in the west and covers all buildings up to the Western Railway tracks in the east.
The average height of existing buildings at Marine Drive is 21 m and most of them are six floors high. At 32 m, buildings will be able to add three new floors. And at 58 m, the new structures could be as tall as 17 floors. This, experts warn, could entirely change Marine Drive’s skyline.