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Saudi Arabia to unveil sustainable development model at Urban Forum

Saudi Arabia, February 9, 2020

The Royal Commission for AlUla (RCU) will be showcasing its innovative model for sustainable development in AlUla, an area of extraordinary natural beauty and home to Saudi Arabia’s first Unesco World Heritage site at Hegra, at the 10th World Urban Forum in Abu Dhabi.

Covering an area of more than 22,000 sq km in North West Saudi Arabia, AlUla is being developed as an open living museum for the world but with a clearly defined and master planned strategy that places urban regeneration and sensitive development at its core – fully aligned with the Forum’s theme “Connecting Culture and Innovation.”

The plans are built on The Charter of AlUla – a framework document that includes 12 guiding principles that commit the RCU to long-term future development which safeguards the natural and cultural landscape while developing AlUla as a global heritage, arts and culture destination.

RCU said it was committed to unleashing not only the power of AlUla’s natural landscape but its greatest asset – the 45,000 people who live and work in an area two thirds the size of Belgium that has been a crossroads of civilisations for over 7000 years.

A key cornerstone of the regeneration programme is enhancing skills and accelerating prosperity through infrastructure development and community initiatives to improve education and healthcare facilities, it stated.

Giving AlUla residents the opportunity to create their own businesses, and providing world-class training and higher education in key sectors, from hospitality and catering, to archaeology, wildlife management and business degrees in Australia, France, the UK and US.

Urban regeneration will focus on the existing built-up areas of AlUla and AlUla South, with 80 per cent of AlUla County remaining protected, including the historic Old Town of AlUla, said the statement from RCU.

The Commission’s presence at the Forum will deliver the opportunity to demonstrate how these principles are being brought to life through a comprehensive master planning process that incorporates global best practice it added.

'RCU’s strategy mirrors that of the forum with our belief in culture as a pillar of sustainable development and the contribution it makes to the long-term regeneration of urban areas,' remarked its CEO Amr AlMadani.

“We are looking forward to sharing our vision and details of the first phases of our master planning process at the Forum in Abu Dhabi that are now becoming a reality and demonstrating our commitment to the transformation of AlUla – but ensuring we always put the people before the place as we continue our journey through time,” he added.

The RCU’s masterplans have been created in a phased programme to incorporate the Charter’s 12 guiding principles and ensure they are fulfilled in four key geographical areas.

Francesca Arici, the RCU’s Acting Chief County Zoning and Planning Officer, is responsible for coordinating development of the masterplans.

'It has been a complex but critically important task, drawing on the expertise of international experts, global best practice and input and advice from the AlUla community to ensure sensitive, sustainable development that fulfils all our objectives,' stated Arici.

'We are now starting to move from planning to implementation working in partnership with the residents of AlUla,' he added.

According to RCU, among the first elements of the Master plan are detailing a new system of local building permits and the launching of a Public Design Studio to advance new architecture and urban design guidelines for the region.

It is anticipated that AlUla will introduce the new permits alongside design guidelines as early as March 2020 it added.