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42 government buildings among 70 vying for heritage status

Aloysius Xavier Lopez
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CMDA to clear first list of structures recommended by conservation committee; State to take final call on notification

The Chennai Metropolitan Development Authority (CMDA) is in the process of readying a list of important buildings for heritage conservation.

Later this month, CMDA will clear the first list of 70 heritage buildings compiled by the heritage conservation committee (HCC).

As many as 42 of the structures/precincts that figure on the list are government buildings, and the rest are private ones.

The government buildings include Anna University’s old engineering college, Government Teacher Training Institute – Saidapet, Madras High Court, Music and Dance College, King Institute of Preventive Medicine and General Post Office.

Theosophical Society is one of the private premises likely to figure on the list.

After the list is cleared by the CMDA later this month, objections, if any, from the owners of the buildings will be recorded at a meeting to be held at CMDA’s Egmore office.

“We will call the property owners and explain the significance of the structures with the help of documents that prove their heritage value,” said a senior official associated with the compilation of the list.

The CMDA will then send the list, along with its recommendations and recorded objections, to the State government for notification.

However, once a building is notified as a heritage structure, the onus of repair and maintenance will be on the property owners.

“The owners will have to preserve the heritage buildings,” the official said. They will be forbidden from demolishing the structures and in the case of any damage, repair the structures themselves.

A repair fund will be created and kept at the disposal of the member secretary of CMDA for partial funding of such repairs if the owner is unable to carry them out.

The listed buildings will have three grades.

Grade I structures will be prime landmarks upon which no alterations will be permitted.

Under Grade II, external changes on structures will be subject to scrutiny.

Buildings under Grade III may be changed for ‘adaptive reuse’ with suitable internal and external changes. The list of heritage buildings has been readied by a team of architecture students engaged by the CMDA under the HCC’s supervision.

The team inspected hundreds of heritage buildings and precincts in the city and documented them over the past few months.

It has also collected photographs of the structures making note of their architectural features.

Some of these buildings have also been mentioned by the Justice E. Padmanabhan committee on hoardings.

Initially, the assessment was restricted to the Chennai Corporation area that has been divided into geographical divisions such as Triplicane, George Town, Purasawalkam and Mylapore.

The State government initiated action in 1997 to conserve heritage buildings. After the second master plan was approved by the government on September 2, 2008, special rules for conservation of heritage buildings/precincts came into force.

With the recommendations of the CMDA, on April 1, 2010, the government constituted the HCC.

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