The Royapuram railway station in North Chennai, a heritage building, is in the news again. A public interest litigation petition has been filed in the Madras High Court seeking a direction to the State government and the Heritage Conservation Committee against deleting 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, counsel for the CMDA took notice. The matter has been posted for further hearing after two weeks.

In the petition, S. Sathia Chandran, an advocate, said he filed the petition 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 that the railways had mooted this “destructive and disastrous step.”

The building was the oldest station in the entire country. It was small in size.

On the 72-acre site, the heritage building did not even occupy a quarter of a ground of 2,400 sq.feet. The ‘insensitivity’ of the railways to history and heritage was highly condemnable. 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 was only at the instance of the High Court that the government woke up to the need for forming the heritage conservation committee, which was formed on April 1, 2010. The panel had the necessary powers to conserve heritage buildings.

As per the list of heritage structures in phase-I, the Royapuram railway station had been listed at serial 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 Southern Railway. But there was no response. Hence, the present petition.