Height axe on 5 hill buildings
The Hamro Party-led Darjeeling municipality on Friday directed five under-construction buildings violating height rules to dismantle the structures within 15 days.
According to Rule 162 of West Bengal Municipality Building Rule 2007, hill municipalities can sanction building plans up to a height of 11.5 metres and civic bodies have to obtain prior approval from the state government for construction of strictures up to 13.5 metres tall.
Experts said that 11.5 metres roughly translates to a four-storey building. Despite this regulation, hundreds of buildings in Darjeeling have conveniently flouted this norm for years now. The civic body is currently targeting under-construction properties. Sources said that the civic body approved of the decision during the board of councillors meeting on August 18.
“The civic body has directed that the part exceeding the prescribed height should be dismantled within 15 days failing which action of dismantling will be initiated by the Darjeeling municipality and the costs recovered from the building owner as per law,” said a source.
Although the notice has been issued to five buildings at present, a source said that it would be an ongoing process. The move comes a few days after Hamro Party president Ajoy Edwards requested the civic body and the district administration to take action against illegal buildings. Edwards said that Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee was also concerned about the high-rises in Darjeeling town and had conveyed the same during a meeting a few months back. While most residents have welcomed the civic body’s decision, past experiences have also forced many to keep their fingers crossed on the new initiative.
“The initiative is welcome. However, one should not forget that almost every elected board in the past 20 years have tried to stop illegal structures without much success. In fact, construction of illegal structures is an acceptable practice rather than an exception in Darjeeling,” said a resident.
In 2015, the Darjeeling civic body had identified 337 illegal high rises in just eight of the 32 wards in Darjeeling. The same year notices were sent to 61 buildings but no concrete action was taken. The eight wards covered the Chowrasta, Chowk Bazar, Judge Bazar area, the main business area in Darjeeling town. Over the years, a few building slabs have been dismantled but many of those buildings have carried on with the constructions.