STREAMLINING CONSTRUCTION APPROVALS
In the backdrop of a large number of stalled real estate projects, the report, “Streamlining Approval Procedure for Real Estate Projects (SAPREP),” brought out by the Ministry of Urban Development, Housing & Poverty Alleviation, has been made an integral part of the model building by-laws in the yet to be released “National Building Code 2016,” which is to be adopted by all Urban Local Bodies & Development Authorities in Indian cities. We bring you a brief analysis. Apart from the general economic slowdown and fund crunch hitting the real estate sector adversely, especially in terms of project execution, it is the delayed permissions/sanctions that have contributed more to large-scale delivery defaults, leading to stressed realty. Here, it is significant to mention that on an average, there are 37 procedures involved in getting construction permits and an average 162 days are spent towards obtaining permission for undertaking construction. The current procedure for seeking clearances is so cumbersome and time consuming, that in some cases it stretches to more than an year. Recognizing the concern for streamlining the procedures for clearances to be obtained from various departments within the least possible number of days, a model is given in the above-mentioned report, which suggests that the entire process of pre- and post-construction approvals should be completed within one month. Pre-construction approvals include 'Intimation of Disapproval, Site & Building Layout Approval, NOC for Coastal Areas, and Building Permit Issue' from the concerned Development Authority/Municipality. 'Road Access Approval' from NHAI/PWD, 'Ancient Monument Approval' from the Archaeological Survey of India, 'Environment Clearance' from the Ministry of Environment & Forests, 'Borewell Registration Certificate' from the Central Ground Water Authority, 'Fire Fighting Scheme Approval' from the Fire Department, 'AAI Height NOC' from the Civil Aviation Department and 'Defence Clearance' from the Ministry of Defence are some of the most important ones. Post-construction approvals include a 'Building Completion Certificate & Occupancy Certificate' from the Development Authority/Municipality and a 'Service Plan Clearance & Service Connections' from various Service Departments. In addition to all these, there are approvals that need to be sought during the construction stage, which include 'Damp Proofing Certificate' (on site) from the Development Authority, 'Electric Substation NOC' from the relevant Electricity Distribution Authority, and a 'Pollution Clearance' from the State Pollution Control Board. All these pre-construction, in-construction and post-construction approvals are for clear land title and possession of land, and exclude clearances related to 'Change of Land Use (CLU)' and 'Land Title.' Also, the model timeline of one month for pre-construction approvals is subject to online approvals. A case is made out to integrate approvals like Environment Clearance, Borewell Registration Certificate, AAI Height NOC, Defence Clearance, NOC for Coastal Areas , Road Access and Railways Area Clearance into the Master Plan. This model is meant to serve as a guide to Urban Local Bodies and Development Authorities for adoption. Since the number of procedures and duration varies from state to state as per the local conditions, the model would require modifications to suit specific cities. And in this context, a number of options have been suggested to reduce the time taken for various procedures. One such option is to provide online sanctions. Some of the ULBs/Development Authorities like the Pune Municipal Corporation and the West Bengal Housing & Industrial Development Corporation have successfully implemented online processes for issuance of building plans and completion certificates. There is also an option to empower competent professionals for building plan design, in order to facilitate streamlining the procedure for obtaining approvals. Empowered professionals may also, on behalf of developers/builders, submit the documents required at the time of various clearances. In this context there is an option for outsourcing procedures on the lines of passports to make the whole process of projects clearance more streamlined, transparent and hassle-free. The model is aimed at promoting a single window system where all agencies involved in the process need to be integrated into a single electronic facility, with proper coordination and monitoring of timelines. This is possible to achieve by Development Authorities, if they constituting teams comprising experts from various agencies, to be formed under the overall supervision of a Town Planner designated to assist developers/builders with complex projects, and to constantly improve the sanction process by cutting down delays with provisions like risk based classification of buildings. And last but not the least, a case is made out for integrating various agencies outside the Urban Local Bodies like Fire Services, Departments of Industries, Ministry of Defence Aviation, Metro Rail etc., for granting NOC to building plans in certain specific cases. In addition to this, emphasis has been laid upon the creation of a specialized cell in the Development Authorities, headed by a Town Planner and manned by qualified personnel like architects, engineers, environment specialists and legal experts et al., who are conversant with procedures, development regulations and online approvals.