GoK finally issues Heritage Regulations


The Zoning Regulations (Amendment) Act 2020 just notified focusing on Heritage framework and guidelines under the Town and Country Planning Act, is a strong step forward in the Heritage Protection in Karnataka. Read Gazette Notification here.


If there’s one thing and one thing only that heritage needs it is regulations and guidelines. From time immemorial heritage enthusiasts who have been standing up for crumbling walls, lakes and culture, this has been a constant refrain. During every point of confrontation, whether it was Balabrooie, Cubbon Park or Janatha Bazaar, the primary focus has been reactive and heavy on confrontation, energy and pointless, circuitous interaction. The #HeritageBeku Team ourselves have made it very clear that this series of interactions undermined the collective intelligence of Bangalore as well as wasted time & resources in backtracking. The most obvious and simple solution always was a framework which helped the government machinery define the role of heritage and the role of people in preserving it, going forward. To this purpose several meetings were held with many senior government officials including representations made to the chief secretary over two meetings, several letters and updates.


During the outarge around Cubbon Park with a seven story building apparently coming up, despite #HeritageBeku being on the forefront of the CubbonPark Ulisi campaign, they categorically stated that as a strategy, any future interactions would focus only on heritage from three persp-ectives -


Heritage Law, Heritage Education & Heritage Foundation. Clearly the Heritage Laws or Regulations are paramount and this was a single focus in every conversation and demand from the government, starting from our original online petition, a manifold and detailed objections to the revised master plans 2031, as well as our letters and petitions to the government. As a citizen initiative #HeritageBeku is very keen to ensure that a non-partisan yet passionate group of citizens with a strong interest in the cities heritage can create a collaborative wraparound and direction to a sustained and driven preservation of heritage.


There have been many attempts at either a law or planning regulations permutations and combinations have been mooted over the last 15 years and have been discarded, shelved or put into cold storage. Heritage Veterans like Naresh Narasimhan, earlier BATF, Intach, Sanjay Sridhar and Ashwin Ramesh have been part of a long journey. Therefore it was particularly interesting to see the UDD notification of the zonal planning regulations duly notified yesterday which covered the scope of Heritage regulations in the state.The original gazette was apparently listed in September 2019 , but strangely most of us never saw the draft , let alone had the opportunity to react or give suggestions on that .


A quick once over of this document does not permit us to go into sufficient detail and understanding of the finer details, implications and legal impact of this document. Its quite a comprehensive document covering all aspects of heritage, spatial contiguity and several controls in place. The Heritage Conservation Committee (HCC) seems to be given apparent weight and authority, but still has a largely advisory role. However a few top level takeaways which wee truly appreciated all the efforts that have been made to make heritage strong and intrinsic component of planning the city, be it the master plan or any changes and modifications and heritage zones. The effort to create a Heritage Fund to preserve and promote heritage is also notable and clearly shows that the authorities are listening to the citizens, particularly the detailed notes that Heritage Beku had presented in its RMP31 Objections as well as the several letters written to the chief secretary and other senior government officials on the subject. The concern however does remain with the unique composition of the Heritage Conservation Committee for Bangalore limited to the original Arts Commission as defined by Section 51 of the The BDA 1976 laws, and the BDA being the de facto Heritage Conservation Committee in charge given its Planning Authority status. The concept of transferable development rights or TDS has not been detailed and needs to be re-looked at given Bengaluru's unique situation, the TDR issue will be a rather complicated and knotty , which we would far rather avoid. We will update this article as and when information is received and the Heritage Beku Team has some time to apply itself to the framework and dealing with this definitive step forward by the government.




We would certainly like to express our appreciation that the government has listens intently to citizens concerned about heritage, and evaluated its own critical role in preserving the the intangible and tangible heritage of our beloved state. We are confident that with partnership with several heritage organizations, conservationists, historians academics, citizen initiatives like #HeritageBeku and so many others, we will certainly have a resurgence and greater ownership for conserving and promoting Hetitage for a beloved city and state.


Places Matter

 

Updates and suggestions from experts


@Champaka Rajagopal (Professor and Urban Planner)


1. Composition of Heritage Committee:

Include two civic representatives, an urban designer, urban planner, elected representatives from the city (BBMP) and state government to ensure commitment.


2. Powers and functions of the committee.

The committee presently has only advisory role. Ascribe executive powers to the committee by including elected representatives from the BBMP. The committee must prepare a heritage conservation and adaptive reuse framework, remedial framework for structures of importance under threat, zonal regulations in the RMP and monitoring and evaluation framework for implementation. Entrust role for the committee in monitoring of execution and evaluation of outcomes. Any changes to methods adopted for listing of structures, compensation, etc., must be approved by the committee.


3. Point no.2: In cases where master plans have incorporated zonal regulations for heritage conservation through a consultative process with civil society, such as in Bengaluru, it is imperative that the master plan supersedes this Gazette Notification.


4. Point no. 7: Provide incentives to private owners in the form of tax relief or other monetary benefits.


 

@Laxmi Nagaraj , Urban Planner


First of all it only applies to places declared as “heritage”. Declaring places as “heritage” itself is a HUGE task

2. There are several reservations cited with no clarity.

3. Composition of the committee Government heavy, civil engineer should be expert in conservation of structures and conservation techniques, Forest Dept representative should also be there and environmentalist with sustainability and conservation expertise and most important QUALIFIED urban planners and urban designers with experience ( not Government employees working in BDA, BBMP etc). BDA has power to appoint two additional non members, they could even be appointed under this provision

4. Committee has to recommend grading into grade 1, grade 2 and grade 3 which itself is a HUGE task

5. Criteria is so GENERAL, with Government heavy committee everything can be over ruled.

6. The best part - Development permission to be given by Planning Authority which I am assuming is BDA and/or Karnataka Town and Country Planning which do not have any staff who can understand the nuances of these regulations and accordingly give approval. This is where “capacity building” that I was talking about earlier comes in. They have to be trained.

7. More emphasis is on repairing, altering, adding rather than conservation

8. No implementation and enforcement mentioned at all.

9. Public participation lightly mentioned but not strongly emphasised.

This is like all the regulations I have reviewed in India that are too general with not enough “ teeth” for it to be a strong document that can be relied on


It does mention buildings under control of PWD etc to be declared heritage but there may be other contradicting regulations that may allow them to do what they want and residential owners have to maintain at their own expense. The reason they sell or demolish is that they can’t maintain. My comments are very critical but this is my reaction whenI see how casually policies are developed.


 

@Prof Yashaswini Sharma ,HOD Dayanand College of Architecture

A few points to be considered:


1. A bureaucrat mustn't head a HCC. It effectively puts committee in Govt control.

2. There are too many Govt officials in the HCC

3. TDR needs to be carefully monitored

4. Grade I & II Heritage buildings with private owners could be allowed to use the structure for hospitality keeping in mind heritage norms. When it is used for commercial purpose, it should effectively be used for boutique shops and the like which didn't strain the structure much.

5. Incentives to private owners need to be formulated in a better manner aiming of course to help them maintain the structure.

6. A list of experts with heritage expertise must be made available so that even private owners know whom to approach when any maintenance work is required.

7. Structural engineer in the HCC must have expertise in Heritage Conservation

8. More than one Heritage Conservation architect should be part of committee ideally


 

Further pointers on next steps and structure from Ms @Champaka Rajagopal


Institutional arrangements: Organizational structures and regulations


People: Competencies and capacity to address complexities of heritage conservation 

Data: Method and criteria for listing and documentation of heritage structures

Systems: Technology geoportal- for transparency and contracts - so that incompleteness in contracts do not derail the data and implementation processes. 


It would be imperative that the Zonal Regulations for Heritage Conservation are taken further to elaborate these four dimensions with clarity. Considering that we are now in the nascent stage, the most important aspect would be to define the institutional arrangements. As Professor. Vasavada has sharply pointed, there are two issues: One, of taking cognizance of pre-existing institutions (Bangalore Arts Commission) and perhaps building upon them (or permanently dissolve it). Two, of establishing regulatory incentives (which can easily become manipulatively used). A third, is what you and I discussed, to emphasize, a collective responsibility for heritage, as it belongs to the city. To this end, institutional arrangements, must explain clearly, the obligations and voluntary responsibilities of the state and local government organizations, social responsibilities of private agencies, social responsibilities of civil society representatives and any other organizations involved (each one specifically, along with possible scenarios for purpose of communication and communication protocols between them - these must be anticipated by the Heritage Committee and drafted in meticulous detail - however, this will not be set in cement - it is a dynamic document subject to change within some essential non negotiable principles of heritage conservation); the proceedings of these must be available as public access, ideal (the danger is that scrutiny makes government officers and others risk averse). 


On regulations, it is important that the Zonal Regulations not just show regulations but infact, regulatory processes. What will be the process of implementing these regulations and how can we make sure those are in the right direction and interest of heritage conservation, which is value driven, not merely money led. These processes need to be reflected in the organizational structures above and roles and responsibilities of each organization. 

For the initial discussions with Town Planning these are the main points, as we are in the nascent stage. If Town Planning has already deliberated on these through the last ten years, it would be great to know what they have considered viable for the city. HB's role may be to assist TP department to facilitate and organize one such workshop, to establish the initial composition of the Heritage Committee, get in principle commitment from private organizations and deliberate on the roles and responsibilities/ chart out the scenarios for communication protocols.


 

@Prof Rabindra Vasavada- Architect, Professor, Expert


The guide lines included here for criteria for evaluation and categories of listing and on various aspects of heritage conservation guidelines - are all important area of concern and it is now always better to follow international UNESCO and our own INTACH Charter.  UNESCO has done huge amount of background work which can be very useful to follow. This has to be partly reformulated in our context and accepted as a basis for our regulations. 


The listing and grading criteria mentioned are a carry forward Of what is followed in other states. What is missing is a standard format for listing as this is very important for actual follow up. INTACH Delhi has a standard format which is accepted nationally and this should be included. 


The composition of Heritage Committee in the state also appears too complex with a list of about 21 members overall. I can never understand how effective such a committee would be with an officer of the level of Deputy Commissioner heading it. I am not sure whether some of the members would be of higher level than such a head! The other issue is the kind of composition and the level of experience stated for members. I feel such a Committee would only be a formality to follow but will have no authority to safeguard the heritage. The idea of assigning additional task of functioning as Heritage Committee to the already existing Bangalore Arts Commission with additional members may not be a good idea. I feel the roles and responsibilities of both may not be similar. This can also result in confusion of goals. For Bangalore there has to be a very strong HCC with authority not only to recommend but also execute. 

The most important point of incentives is really relegated to simple mentions. This would really require tremendous attention. TDR seems like a standard solution as a master stroke though this is the most dangerous proposal but favourite solution with all authorities! It has failed in Bombay, Ahmedabad and is no solution unless honestly, seriously  controlled.  It can be misused. This aspect which is most important is simply not attended with seriousness. The allowable change of land use into commercial is also a dangerous incentive without very carefully controlled reuse as only home-stay with B&B and never commercial hotels or restaurants!! I think this aspect needs very careful thought. This can also lead to serious gentrification! In Ahmedabad I had suggested that this entire aspect be handled by a Trust with authority to manage the heritage. Incentives can really be a matter of deep malpractice too. This is a very serious point requiring multiple inputs. 


In Ahmedabad in my experience I had worked specifically on the guidelines for the historic city which were worked out to safeguard the Outstanding Universal Values. These were accepted partially by the Ahmedabad Urban Development Authority for  their proposed Master Plan 2021. But this still is waiting to be transformed in the detailed Heritage Regulations. So you can appreciate how peripheral is the interest of the authorities in sincerely pursuing the Heritage Conservation. 


In an overall review of the present document you have given, I would summarise separately as bullets and send you separately. I still think that doing so may not really make much difference as what needs careful consideration  is the entire document which needs a very careful draft which also meets with the standard of international practices in heritage conservation.