Only five officers to handle about 400 building applications received every month

Faced with burgeoning encroachments and building plan violations, the Town Planning Wing of the Madurai Corporation is grossly understaffed, raising questions about the soundness of the planning process.

The Corporation spans 100 wards in four zones, but has just five full-time officers in the Town Planning Wing to handle about 400 building applications pouring in every month.

With residential and commercial buildings mushrooming in the city, there is a dire need to augment the staff strength of the Town Planning Wing.

At present, the Corporation has a Chief Town Planning Officer, four Assistant Town Planning Officers and two Town Surveyors. For field work and inspection, these officials have to depend on Assistant Engineers (AE) roped in from various wards who are already overburdened with civic duties such as laying drinking water pipelines and erecting streetlights.

"There is a shortage of staff, but the workload is increasing. We have to look into land use regulation, planning approvals, layout approvals, sanctioning of new layouts, removal of encroachments and unauthorised constructions," a senior official said.

At least eight AEs have to be recruited for town planning work alone if the applications are to be processed quickly, officials point out.

Applications for buildings on sites measuring up to 4,000 sq ft for residential purposes and 2,000 sq ft for commercial use are handled by the Corporation. Larger buildings are approved by the Local Planning Authority of the district administration.

Since plan approvals are time-bound, the Town Planning Wing needs more staff in the AE cadre.

"The Corporation is preparing a proposal to be sent to the government seeking the appointment of engineers for town planning work. We hope it will happen soon," a senior official said. The acute staff shortage and the resulting delay in processing building approval applications have often figured in Corporation Council meetings.

But the new online scrutiny of applications for building approvals, and authorising licensed engineers to inspect sites, has eased the pressure on officials to an extent, sources said.

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