Thinking about Investing in Historic Districts: Everything You should Know about Zoning and Regulations!

Excerpt 1:
Mr. Bharat owns a house near a protected monument in South Delhi. He wants it to be reconstructed as it is in a dilapidated condition. He is looking for a good lawyer to seek permission to get his own house renovated.

Excerpt 2:
Buildings come up around the sprawling Gulbarg fort in Kalaburagi. Social activists have taken up this issue with the Director-General ASI (Archaeological survey of India). Construction work has been stopped till further notice.

Guess what’s wrong with these developments?
These are built around historical monuments in the regulated zones which are covered by a specialized set of rules that aim to protect and preserve the cultural heritage.

As an investor, you should be aware of these zones and the specialized regulations covering them because you may unknowingly contravene these which can cost you a bunch of money and time.

Historic Districts: Zoning & Regulations
The historic district is that section of a state which contains buildings, properties, and sites that are considered valuable & are protected for historical & architectural reasons. They reflect our unparalleled & rich cultural heritage.
Zoning regulations specify whether a piece of land around a historical monument can be used for carrying out any residential, commercial or industrial activity.

The act of preserving our rich cultural heritage dates back to 14th century AD. Later during British rule, Bengal regulation (XIX) & Madras regulation (VII) were passed which vested the government with the power to intervene whenever historical monuments were under threat of encroachment. In 1861, The Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), an organization under the ministry of culture was set up for the archaeological researches and preservation of the cultural heritage of the nation. It is headed by a director-general. Maintenance of ancient monuments and archaeological sites is the prime concern of the ASI. Besides it regulates all archaeological activities in the country as per the provisions of the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act, 1958. This act was amended in 2010 to provide better protection to India’s heritage.

As per this act, the prohibited & regulated zone extends up to 200m around a protected monument. Any development/redevelopment or renovation of an existing structure is strictly prohibited in this zone. Any painting, plastering activity or demolition of any part of the buildings in the historical precinct is not allowed without the prior permission of concerned authorities. No permission for any developmental activity shall be granted in the prohibited areas of the protected monuments. Any person who owns a property which existed in the restricted zone before the day of 16th June 1992 or which had been subsequently constructed with the prior permission of Director-General & desires to carry out any renovation or repair, may make an application to the competent authority for the same.

As per the provisions laid down under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act, any construction or redevelopment or renovation carried out in prohibited area without obtaining prior permission from the Director-General will be considered unauthorized & illegal. Violation of any regulation will lead to the penalty of two-year imprisonment and fine of rupee one lakh or both.

To sum up, rehabbing in a historical district or owning a property in a historical precinct is not as same as owning a property in a non-historic area & comes up with various terms and conditions. A bit of carelessness and ignorance may lead you into a big trouble.

This article was first published in the March 2017 edition of The Address