The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Awaiting fantasy, in glass & chrome

Mumbai, March 7: The verdict is out ' and the bulldozers and cranes can move in to demolish the skeletal remains of the textile mills to make way for sparkling glass-and-chrome retail and commercial properties in the heart of Mumbai.

Private millowners were scrambling to whisk the dust off their blueprints hours after the apex court cleared the sale of five mills of the state-owned National Textile Corporation (NTC).

Over the next 18 to 20 months, there will be a flurry of activities that promises to transform derelict buildings that straddle the surplus land of sick mills into boomtown malls and commercial complexes.

An estimated Rs 30,000 crore worth of prime land owned by state-owned and private mills was locked in litigation for several years and have now been set free for re-development.

Tuesday’s court order puts the stamp of approval on the sale of five NTC mills. But the state-owned corporation will now be able to put another 18 mills in the city on the block. Most of these mills are on the outskirts of Mumbai, but they sprawl over 100 acres of land and could fetch hundreds of crores, according to a very conservative estimate.

Similarly, more than Rs 500 crore worth of land with the private mill owners is yet to hit the market.

“We own 18 acres and will be developing it into a commercial hub. Demolition work on the mill land has already started and, in the next two years, our work will be completed,” said Gagan Banga, the executive director of Indiabulls Financial Services.

Indiabulls Properties Private Ltd, a group company, had forked out Rs 717 crore when it bought two NTC-owned mills, Jupiter and Elphinstone, occupying 18 acres of land.

While clearing the NTC mills sale, the apex court ruled that the changes made in rule 58 of the Development Control Regulations for the redevelopment of mill land were constitutionally valid.

Under the old rule, one-third of the total land, including buildings and open spaces, had to be handed over for low-cost housing, green verges and open spaces that would be developed by local authorities. The amendment restricted this farm-out of land to only open spaces.

“This in effect means that out of the total 600 acres of land that will now be available for development, close to 120 acres will remain as a green patch,” said Pranay Vakil, the chairman of Knight Frank India.

“About 70 acres of land was developed between 1991 and 2001. Close to 150 acres have been developed since 2001. By 2012, the rest of the land will be developed. This will change the face of central Mumbai,” said Ness Wadia, the deputy managing director of Bombay Dyeing.

The real estate developers will still need to seek environment and water clearances, which “will be issued in phases”, he added.

The Gurgaon-based DLF group 'which paid Rs 702.2 crore for NTC-owned Mumbai Textile Mills in the largest mill land deal till date ' has already started work to develop the 17.5 acres of land it bought.

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