Corpn. to seek clarification from Commissioner for Municipal Administration

S. Radhika, a Coimbatore resident, had purchased a plot with the Vilankurichi Panchayat's conditional approval in 2006.

She now wants to take up construction on the plot. When she approached the Corporation, she was told that the civic body would not grant building plan approval as the site was part of an unapproved layout.

Minus the approval, she cannot approach a bank for housing loan. Caught in the middle, she is now wondering how to proceed.

There are many Radhikas in the city. More so in added areas where there are a number of unapproved layouts. The Coimbatore Corporation does not have the exact number of unapproved layouts. It is in the process of tabulating the number of such layouts, says an officer.

Once the numbers arrive, the Corporation will know the enormity of the problem that stares in its face.

Unapproved layouts

In the added areas, the 11 local bodies that merged with the Corporation, there are two types of unapproved layouts – those with basic amenities and those without.

In unapproved layouts with basic amenities, the local bodies there, prior to merger, had provided road, streetlights and drinking water connection to houses they had granted building plan approval.

In a few unapproved layouts, they did not and those are the ones without any infrastructure.

As for the second category, the Coimbatore Corporation has very little problem. It will not take up any development activities there, as it has done for such layouts in the core city areas.

The civic body will treat all unapproved layouts with equanimity. Just because they fall in added areas, the treatment will not be different, says another officer.

Maintenance

For the ones that merged with the Corporation with basic infrastructure in place, the Corporation seems to be in a fix – whether to take up the maintenance of such infrastructure or not. One set of people argue that the civic body should not take up the maintenance of the infrastructure because they are in unapproved layouts.

Others reason that the streetlights, water supply pipelines and roads in unapproved layouts are assets handed over to the Corporation by those local bodies and maintaining those are not just the Corporation's moral obligation but also a duty.

They say that the civic body, in any case, pays the electricity bill for power consumed by streetlights in unapproved layouts. By doing so, it attracts the duty to maintain the lights.

The roads in the unapproved layouts are not used just by the residents there but many others too. Hence the Corporation should also maintain the roads.

They, however, argue that the civic body should not take up any new projects in those areas. When it comes to extending storm water drain or underground drainage network, the civic body should ignore the layouts.

This will ensure that the civic body treats all unapproved layouts – be in added areas or core city areas – in equal measure.

There is one more issue that the Corporation is seized of: whether or not to grant permit for additional construction in buildings that were constructed on unapproved sites with approval from respective local bodies.

Approval

An officer in the civic body says that the Corporation is giving the approval if the site has been regularised. If not, it rejects the request.

A councillor, seeking anonymity, says that to get over the problem, the Corporation should write to the Government to regularise the unapproved layouts.

It will solve the problem once and for all.

With many opinions floating around, the Corporation is planning to write to the Commissioner for Municipal Administration seeking a clarification, says the officer.

What they say:

T.K. Ponnusamy, Commissioner, Coimbatore Corporation:

The Coimbatore Corporation, after expansion and election, is addressing the issue.

It has initiated the process of ascertaining the number of layouts in added areas. Once it has a clear picture, it will approach the Commissioner for Municipal Administration for a direction.

The civic body cannot take an independent decision. As and when it gets the orders, it will proceed.

P. Rajkumar, Chairman, North Zone, Coimbatore Corporation:

Prior to the last regularisation drive, residents in many unapproved layouts, though had other facilities, suffered without basic amenities from the Corporation. Now there is the threat of the story repeating itself. Without letting things slip out of hand, the Corporation should write to the Government seeking regularisation of the unapproved layouts in added areas to ensure uniform development across the city.

K. Kathirmathiyon, Secretary, Coimbatore Consumer Cause:

The Government must maintain the existing infrastructure but should not provide any more. Nor, should it regularise the layouts. Regularisation is a one-off affair and it should be so. Repeated regularisation is tantamount to approving of an illegal act. Regularisation also hampers city development at a macro level. Big projects are being compromised for accommodating the narrow interests of a few. This should stop.