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Demolition order looms large over swathes of Lutyens' New Delhi

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Western conservationists have reacted with horror at plans to demolish a vast swathe of Sir Edwin Lutyens' New Delhi complex.

They have warned that the Indian government's proposals to replace 20 per cent of the colonial capital - 100 bungalows - is 'probably the beginning of the end' for the much-admired 1930s development.

The World Monuments Fund (WMF), which has New Delhi on its '100 Most Endangered Sites' publication, is leading the campaign against the proposals.

'This is an extraordinary thing to do, ' said Colin Amery, director of the organisation's London branch. 'It is a wonderfully large area by one of the world's greatest architects.'

Amery, who is president of the Lutyens Trust, also hit out at plans to replace the houses with high-density residential accommodation. 'There seems to have been almost no thought given to what will go in place of the bungalows, ' he said.

He added that the New Yorkbased WMF had launched a lobbying campaign - together with India's Fine Arts Commission and the Indian National Trust - to get the proposals shelved.

The WMF has won the support of London architect and heritage campaigner Richard Nightingale. 'Once they've done this the government has set a precedent, ' he warned.

'Many people in India are concerned that this is the beginning of a creeping demolition process and part of a much bigger plan to replace the complex with buildings that are inappropriate.'

Nightingale also said that Indian officials have admitted there are no plans to provide the area with a conservation strategy or 'instruction on the kind of buildings that should replace the bungalows'.

However, the Indian government insisted the move - which SAVE Britain's Heritage's Adam Wilkinson described as 'extremely concerning' - was no cause for alarm.

It dismissed the criticism, insisting that the bungalows earmarked for replacement have already fallen into a state of disrepair, and added little to Lutyens'masterpiece.

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