Controversy brews over leased heritage Shimla Town Hall!
Shimla, July 31
In a concerning development, the Shimla Municipal Corporation had issued a notice on July 21, to the concessionaire of the recently leased Heritage Shimla MC Town Hall building. The notice alleges that as per a complaint received by MC Shimla, the heritage property has been tampered with during the ongoing renovation to set up a food court. The food court is expected to feature popular brands like KFC, Costa Coffee, Cream bell and more. This move has raised questions about the preservation of the city’s historical pride and the potential commercialization of a significant cultural landmark.
The Town Hall, once the seat of the country’s oldest Municipal Corporation, has now been leased out to accommodate a commercial food court, raising eyebrows among the citizens. The building, which holds immense historical significance, is set to host trading rights and commercial activities on one of its floors.
Sources in the state government reveal that the decision to lease the building was made during the previous BJP rule, with approval granted by the Sukhvinder Singh Sukhu government to proceed with the food court plan. The heritage building underwent renovations a year ago and was inaugurated by former chief minister Jairam Thakur. However, for the past year, it has been under discussion for leasing, and tenders were issued twice without fetching satisfactory bids.
The lease has now been granted to a concessionaire named Iqbal Singh, whose registered office is located in Rajouri Garden, New Delhi. The location of the leased food court is worth noting as it is merely 50 meters away from Himachali Rasoi, where a tragic blast occurred, resulting in one fatality and injuries to 11 others. Several shops, including a jeweller showroom and another eatery, were also damaged in the incident.
The Municipal Corporation Commissioner through the Architect planner issued a letter to the concessionaire, alleging that air conditioning panels have been erected on the exterior façade of the Town Hall building, causing obstruction to the heritage structure. The Commissioner emphasized that the building falls within a notified Heritage Area of the Shimla Planning Area, and installing such equipment without permission violates the Heritage norms outlined in the IDP. The concessionaire has been directed to remove the air conditioning units until obtaining the necessary permissions from the competent authority.
The decision to lease the Town Hall to a private party came after a High Court order directed the Shimla Municipal Corporation, the rightful owner, not to use the premises for housing MC staff in the future. As per the court’s directive, the upper floor of the building may be used by the SMC and the government, while the lower floor was advised to be utilized for commercial purposes, if deemed appropriate.
However now, the leasing of the historical Town Hall for commercial use has sparked concerns about the preservation of Shimla’s heritage and the potential impact on the city’s cultural identity. With the ongoing dispute over the alleged violations of heritage norms, it remains to be seen how the situation will unfold and what steps will be taken to safeguard the historical significance of this iconic building.
On the social media post of the complainant in this matter, a citizen stated ” Heart aches to see such so called developments in our town. It seems that we have turned deaf ear and blind eyes towards such … Wake up Shimla,” she urged.
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