Darjeeling, Oct. 19: The GTA has decided to allow people to park vehicles on the premises of the defunct Hotel Mount Everest in Darjeeling from tomorrow, though its owners, EIH Limited, have not given permission to do so.
Binay Tamang, the executive member of the GTA in charge of information and cultural affairs, today said the compound of the hotel needed to be opened for parking till the end of the year as there would be a huge influx of tourists in the next two months at time road repairs were on in the hill town.
The hotel has been shut since 1985 after a fire gutted the building. The property was one of the best known hotels and counted Bollywood stars among its guests.
Tamang today said the administrative body would allow the people to park vehicles on the compound of the hotel from tomorrow till the year-end. "We had written to EIH Limited on September 10, 2012, requesting it to allow us to use the hotel for parking vehicles till December 31, 2012. We are anticipating a huge influx of tourists in the next two months and since the municipality has also started repairing all roads, there could be major traffic congestion," Tamang said.
The GTA member said EIH Limited had not yet given the go-ahead for the parking. "We got a letter from S.S. Mukherjee, the vice-chairman of the company, who has neither denied nor given us permission to use the space. Since, we are working for the welfare of the common people and the tourists, we have decided to park cars on the compound of the Everest Hotel from tomorrow," he said.
In his reply, Mukherjee said EIH had been planning to reopen the hotel but the company had encountered impediments, one of which was the scarcity of water in the town.
Arguing that the GTA's move would dampen EIH's "enthusiasm (for reopening the hotel)", Mukherjee said: "Please let us know whether there is anything we can do in terms of subsidising any alternative space, which may be arranged by the GTA for the purpose."
Told about the GTA's decision to park vehicles on the hotel premises, an EIH official said "coercive" parking would be illegal.
"We are not aware of any such development. However, if this is true, it will further erode confidence of the investors in the development of Darjeeling. Moreover, whosoever tries to do this, it will be taken as an unlawful and coercive activity."
Tamang said the GTA wanted to use the property only till December.
"For 27 years, they have not opened their property. We want them to co-operate with us for the good of the public. We want to use the space only for a temporary period. If they respond positively, we will also extend all possible co-operation to them in the days to come," he said.
The GTA said it was looking at ways to decongest Darjeeling and plans were in place to open new parking spaces in town. "Construction of parking spaces at Singamari and at another place near the railway station has already started. We are looking at accommodating 750 vehicles in these two parking lots and once they are completed, the traffic problem in Darjeeling will be solved to a large extent," said Tamang.
Bimal Gurung, the chief executive of the GTA, said old municipality buildings at Chowk Bazar would be dismantled soon and new structures would be built. "We had a meeting with the business establishment. The project is worth around Rs 18-19 crore and we will set up a rain harvesting system, vegetable market and parking space at Chowk Bazar," Gurung said.
Sources said the buildings were likely to be constructed on a public-private-partnership model.