ABU DHABi — The Royal Commission for Al-Ula (RCU) will showcase its innovative model for sustainable development in Al-Ula, 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 the northwest of Saudi Arabia, Al-Ula 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 Al-Ula — 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 Al-Ula as a global heritage, arts and culture destination.

RCU is committed to unleashing not only the power of Al-Ula’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 civilizations for over 7000 years.

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

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

Urban regeneration will focus on the existing built-up areas of Al-Ula and Al-Ula South, with 80 percent of Al-Ula County remaining protected, including the historic Old Town of Al-Ula.

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.

RCU CEO Amr AlMadani said: “The commission’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.

“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 Al-Ula — but ensuring we always put the people before the place as we continue our journey through time.”

The RCU’s masterplans have been created in a phased program 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.

She said, “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 Al-Ula community to ensure sensitive, sustainable development that fulfills all our objectives. We are now starting to move from planning to implementation working in partnership with the residents of Al-Ula.”

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 Al-Ula will introduce new permits alongside design guidelines as early as March 2020.

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