Panel suggests sops to preserve private heritage buildings

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The Mumbai Heritage Conservation Committee has recommended to the state government a set of financial incentives for private owners of heritage structures, but emphasised more on maintenance than just redevelopment. It has also proposed concession in property tax payments, which is significant since the new tax calculated on the capital value turns out to be higher for heritage structures.

"We have made certain changes to the proposal based on discussions that will enhance the incentives to be provided. The changes mainly refer to making the owner or lessee more accountable for the maintenance of heritage structures. We will now submit this proposal to the government for deliberation," said heritage committee chairman V Ranganathan on Monday.

According to the amended list of incentives prepared by the heritage committee, owners and lessees can gain access to tax sops and transferable development rights (TDR) on the condition that private heritage structures are conserved satisfactorily. "The owner or lessee of the privately owned heritage property must approach the committee with plans for repair, restoration and maintenance for approval. Earlier, additional TDR was to be given on appropriate available land in the full amount to any heritage property that could undergo reconstruction. Now, a small percentage of the TDR incentive will be given once maintenance plans are submitted and approved, and the full TDR incentive will be granted only once the maintenance work is completed," said Ranganathan.

If the state accepts these recommendations, Mumbai will be the country's first metro to provide financial incentives for preservation of private heritage structures. Currently, among the large cities, only Hyderabad grants some concession for private heritage properties by way of a 50 per cent property tax waiver.

"This is an important policy for helping private owners in the city who may be facing difficulties in preserving their old properties. How long it takes the state government to pass these incentives depends on how keen it is to introduce these," said a member of the heritage committee. He added that it can take the government as little as three months to implement the proposal. "The state will have to publish the list, ask for suggestions and objections and later compile the new list to be finally published," said the member.

Other notable incentives recommended include creation of special economic zones and special planning zones for free trade in heritage precincts, concessional interest rates on loans to such properties and tax deductions for trusts and charitable institutions donating money to such properties.

The recommendations do not include punitive action against those owners who fail to preserve heritage buildings and make wanton alterations in their properties.

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