Railways had sought removal of structure from heritage list to pave way for its demolition

The Royapuram railway station, a heritage building, is in the news again.

A public interest litigation has been filed in the Madras High Court seeking a direction to the State government and the heritage conservation committee against the removal of the structure from the list of heritage buildings.

The railways had already approached the panel with a request to remove the building from the list to enable it to demolish the structure, the petitioner said.

When the petition came up before a division bench comprising Justices R. Banumathi and T.S. Sivagnanam, the counsel for the CMDA took notice. The matter has been posted for further hearing after two weeks.

In the petition, S. Sathia Chandran, a lawyer, said he filed the plea for preserving the railway station. Citing a report in The Hindu on June 22 that Southern Railway had approached the committee seeking the removal of the station from the list of heritage buildings to facilitate the demolition of the structure, he said it was unfortunate the railways had mooted this ‘destructive and disastrous step.’

The building was the oldest station in the entire country. It was also small in size. On the 72-acre site, the heritage building did not even occupy a quarter of a ground of 2,400 sq.ft. The ‘insensitivity’ of the Railways towards history and heritage was highly condemnable, the petition said.

The station was inaugurated on July 1, 1856. The decision to demolish such a heritage building was not only an unwise move, but also illegal, it said.

It was only at the instance of the High Court that the government woke up to the need for forming the heritage conservation committee, on April 1, 2010. The panel had necessary powers to conserve heritage buildings.

As per the list of heritage structures in phase I, Royapuram railway station had been listed at no. 26 and the structure came under the Grade I category. If the railways’ request was granted, it would sound the death knell for the conservation of heritage structures in the city.

The petitioner said he sent a representation dated June 22 to the committee and the Southern Railway. But there was no response, which was why he had filed the current petition.

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