BMC has no permit, says heritage panel

The three heritage structures on Hill Road, Bandra, portions of which were to be acquired by the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) for its road-widening project, may find the Mumbai Heritage Conservation Committee (MHCC) coming to their aid.

MHCC chairman Sharad Upasani told DNA that the BMC has not yet sought its permission: a pre-requisite for demolishing state-designated heritage properties in Mumbai. “We have asked for a detailed report on how they plan to acquire and demolish these structures,” says Upasani.

The structures under consideration are the St Peters Church, the Parsi Agiary, which is more than 100 years old, and the graves and grotto on the premises of St Andrews Church, all of which are located along the 1.7 km-long Hill Road. Notices to commercial structures along the road were issued earlier, according to BMC chief Johnny Joseph.

Joseph, who is currently abroad, is expected to take a decision when he returns on Monday. “We will consider the religious sentiments of the residents, but it is the commissioner’s prerogative to take a final call on this,” says Dr S Vishwanath, director (engineering services and projects).

Civic officials say changing the road’s alignment in the 40-year-old plan (for which acquisition has already begun), will be difficult. “If we agree, other commercial structures along the road will make similar demands,” says an official requesting anonymity.

Residents are confident that mounting public opinion will force Joseph to consider realignment. “He will have to explain, as the acquisition of structures more than a century old is unethical,” says former councillor Rustom Tirandaz, a Parsi.

Joseph is apparently not keen on alternatives suggested by resident groups which include a Rs4.5 crore pedestrian walkway from the railway station to the police station.

Shyama Kulkarni of the Hill Road Committee insists the commissioner will have to give an assurance that he will stop the demolition. “What if Joseph is transferred next week?,” he asks. “We want to end this issue.”