Public consultation focuses on pedestrian facilities and hawker zones; residents not satisfied with proposal

The third and final public consultation on the proposed Urban Redevelopment of T. Nagar organised by the Chennai Corporation on Thursday started almost an hour late and ended too soon to be of much help to residents. Less than an hour was spent to hear public concerns and views.

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Lack of time and ears were not the only complaints. Residents of T. Nagar were concerned that the proposals outlined by the Corporation through its consultants were more to service and improve the shopping areas than the residential ones.

“We are not against development. What we oppose is growth without concern for the common man” said V. Ravichandran, a long-time resident of T. Nagar.

In 2009, the Chennai Corporation had requested the Tamil Nadu Urban Infrastructure Financial Services Ltd (TNUIFSL) to comprehensively redevelop T. Nagar to ensure smooth traffic flow, integrate commercial activities and improve environmental quality. The TNUIFSL, in turn, appointed Jones Lang Lasalle (JLL) and Townland Consultants to workout the plans.

A seven-square kilometre area around Panagal Park was delineated for detailed study and planning. After holding two consultations in 2010 and 2011, the third and final discussion was held on Thursday.

The Chennai Corporation has now firmed up the plans and proposed 10 key projects: pedestrianisation of Thyagaraya Road, South Usman Road and areas around Panagal Park; dedicated hawker zones in the pedestrian areas; an elevated skywalk connecting Mambalam railway station and T. Nagar bus terminus; redesigning of Panagal Park; integrated traffic signals and multi-level car parking at four locations. Existing flyovers across three roads are to be extended and two additional bus terminuses near Valluvar Kottam and Saidapet are to be built. Measures to improve stormwater drainage and public conveniences were also outlined.

The consultants claim that these proposals will increase the pedestrian circulation space in T. Nagar from the existing 8,000 sq. m. to 28,000 sq. m. The plan would create space for 1,180 vendors and decrease congestion on roads. The four multi-level car parking lots would provide parking space for 1,636 cars and 1,480 two-wheelers.

An important four-lane road connecting Doraiswamy subway and G.N. Chetty Road, running deep below Panagal Park with a multi-level underground parking, recommended in the 2010 interim plan has been dropped. So is the proposal to construct various commercial nodes such as a vegetable market near the station.

References to any modification to the land use plan or revision of Floor Space Index (a ratio that determines the maximum extent of construction in a plot), which were referred to in the inception report were conspicuously absent.

The Corporation was also silent on T. Nagar residents' demand for a moratorium on commercial development, demanded by the local citizen groups during the fist consultation meeting in 2010.

The officials involved in planning said that prevention of further commercialisation and other land use control measure would be recommended to the CMDA. Residents yet again raised the need to plan for better residential areas.

“Entry and exit to residential by-lanes of main roads have been blocked because of commercial activity. Noise pollution is also high,” said Basheer, a resident.

Many also said that encroachments and building violations in T. Nagar be stopped and removed. If this could be achieved, there would not be any need for elaborate plans such as the current proposal.

“Corporation has given proposals that may cost crores. Unfortunately it has not taken into account the experience of residents who actually have micro-level solutions that would only require small amount of money,” said K. Babu, a resident.

Mayor Saidai S. Duraisamy in his concluding remarks said views of residents, given in writing, would be taken into consideration in order to correct the wrongdoings of the past that led to haphazard development. He also stressed the need for a review of earlier initiatives that were put on hold because of political compulsions.

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