The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Vertical verdict for new houses
- Real estate fraternity hails high aims

Calcutta: The Rising. The sky is the limit for real estate developers and the cityscape could soon resemble that of Singapore or Hong Kong, following a hint from Writers’ Buildings to go vertical.

In a marked departure from the rigid stance on skyscrapers, state urban development minister Asok Bhattacharya told the Indian Chamber of Commerce on Tuesday that the government was examining pros and cons of raising floor-height ceilings for new constructions.

Land and land reforms minister Abdur Rezzak Mollah on Monday had advocated vertical growth in the upcoming townships developed by private companies to accommodate more people on less land — a lead which brought the CPM brass to the talks table.

Echoing Mollah, Bhattacharya said vertical growth might solve the problem of land scarcity. “It is better to allow 25-storeyed buildings on a small strip of land than 10-storeyed buildings on a larger plot,” he reasoned.

The city’s realty fraternity has hailed the move as progressive and pro-development. “This is exactly what we have been advocating. The authorities must also increase FAR (floor area ratio), which is 2.5 (meaning you can build 2.5 times your land area) in Calcutta, as opposed to around 40 in New York,” said Pradip Chopra, governing board member of Credai.

Chopra felt if FAR goes up, the cost of land will come down, a relief that can be “passed on to the consumer”. Officials of the nodal body of developers and city builders have, however, called for a better-equipped fire department to provide an adequate safety net for the spate of highrises expected to spring up.

At present, the height of any building in Calcutta depends on the width of the road on which the building stands. The government hopes to arrest the spiral in land prices sparked by acute shortage of plots with the vertical verdict.

“We are also restructuring the municipal buildings rules and considering this issue while determining the limit of floor height. We are seeking opinions from experts and covering all flanks before finalising the new set of building rules,” Bhattacharya said.

Later, at Writers’, the minister clarified that the modified building rules would in effect be applicable to “new housing projects coming up around the city”. The heart of the city, he observed, was already too congested and it was difficult to provide linked amenities like parking and open spaces around buildings.

The height limit of structures in the IT hub has already been relaxed. “Land banks in Sector V are almost exhausted, but hundreds of entrepreneurs are still looking for land there. Many of them can be accommodated if we can go higher,’’ stressed Bhattacharya.

Allowing one additional floor in an existing building in Salt Lake, however, has been ruled out for now, citing lack of civic infrastructure.

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