Redevelopment means an old or crumbling building is demolished and a new one is put up in its place. Cluster redevelopment means this process is applied to an amalgamation of contiguous plots – often, as in Mumbai, small and huddled plots with poor common amenities.

But what message does a society send when it insists, during cluster redevelopment, that more car parking spaces be provided, increasing as floor space increases, but that the existing play space be halved. Do cars matter more than children?

Mumbai’s policies are significant because other cities are declaring they want to follow the “Mumbai model of redevelopment”.

Section 33(9) of Mumbai’s Development Control and Promotion Regulations allows cluster redevelopment of large areas, up to a base floor space index, or FSI, of 4.0. Floor space index refers to the ratio of the built-up area relative to the area of the plot. Added to this is an incentive floor space index of the same amount, plus a fungible floor space index that can be purchased, and can add a further 35%.

Thus, the total floor space index available on a redevelopment plot can go up to 270% of the base floor space index. This takes the floor space index to eight as the normal, going up to 10.8 with the fungible purchase.

On a one-hectare plot (10,000 square metres), with a floor space index of eight and assuming an average apartment size of 40 square metres, or 430 square feet, there could be 2,000 apartments. Assuming an average of one child per apartment, there are 2,000 children in all.

Planning standards in the Development Control and Promotion Regulations, 2034, for the future development of educational facilities in Mumbai, specify an average of over 20 square metres per student. The current average is 3.85 square metres per student.

So, for 2,000 children on that one-hectare residential plot, 40,000 square metres, or four hectares, of school and playground area is needed. That is four times the size of the super-developed residential plot. This is clearly impossible. The simple solution, of course, is to provide nothing, no school, no playground, and never mind how that damages the physical and mental health of children.

Oval Maidan in Mumbai. Credit: © Vyacheslav Argenberg /, CC BY 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

As against the lack of provision for school playgrounds, in Mumbai, there is a mandated requirement of parking space, free of floor space index, over and above the sale areas.

This mandated requirement of parking space is related to the size of the apartment. For apartments smaller than 45 square metres, it is one-fourth of the parking space (that is, one space for every four such apartments) while for apartments measuring between 45-60 square metres, it is half, and for 60-90 square metres, it is one car space per tenement and so on.

For the example of 2,000 apartments of 40 square metres, 500 car parking spaces will have to be provided. Additionally, a further 25% must be set aside for visitors’ parking, bringing the total to 625 car parking spaces.

At 30 square metres of built-up area – including common passages and ramps – per car, 625 car parking slots will require an area of 18,750 square metres of parking area free of floor space index in addition to the sale area of 80,000 square metres.

The problem is not so much the area of parking as it is its location. It has to be on the lowest floors of a building. The area per floor must be extensive to make efficient use of access ramps and corridors.

The standard solution is to have a large footprint – or the area on the ground taken up by a building – taking up most of the ground with parking in basements below and several parking floors above, ending with a podium open to the sky, on top of which are the residential towers with smaller footprints. Podiums, it should be noted, are recreation spaces, not playgrounds.

If the larger parking footprints were to be eliminated, with only the tower footprints remaining, there would be far more open space of the ground, with the possibility of real playgrounds for children.

Play areas today are tiny, crammed with slides and swings and sand pits, and there are even tales of so-called playgrounds where any kind of balls are forbidden. Such playgrounds have no athletic value. No child will complain because they do not know any better and are at the mercy of their parents. They have no say in the choices being made for them.

Of course, the driving force is that car parking slots are saleable while playgrounds are not.

What is just as aggravating is that all over the world, there are restrictions on how much parking can be allowed in a development. The denser the locality, the more severe the restriction. Parking attracts cars, so the more parking space there is, the heavier the vehicular traffic will be. London, New York, Tokyo and Hong Kong all disallow or severely discourage parking provisions in their densest areas. In Mumbai, sadly, it seems that cars take precedence over children.

Shirish B Patel is one of the three authors of the idea of New Bombay, and was the first Director of Planning and Works for Navi Mumbai.