Tel Aviv is a Smart City. Built on the dunes of Mandate Palestine’s Mediterranean coast to the north of Jaffa, according to Patrick Geddes’s urban plan, it was initially planned as a Jewish suburb to Jaffa. Within twenty years of its existence, the neighbourhood was forced to adapt to absorb unprecedented waves of immigration of Jews feeling rising pressures in Eastern Europe. Tel Aviv’s growth was necessarily both haphazard and planned, with these characteristics still evident in the city’s built environment. In 2003 the city was inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, recognised for the historic core’s homogeneity of International Style buildings, and the integrity of Geddes’ urban plan.
As the antithesis of Jerusalem, Tel Aviv is secular and liberal. The economy is prospering, the nightlife is lively, and the café and beach scene is busy. The municipal authorities encourage creativity, education and social and economic prosperity.
Underpinning each of these aims is a municipal agenda to achieve the 11th UN Sustainable Development Goal: Sustainable Cities and Communities. The City’s planning department aims to make Tel Aviv inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable through long term investment in local communities.
By adopting Smart City Principles, Tel Aviv’s municipality connects with its residents through technological advances. Residents have access to free Wi-Fi throughout the city, encouraging inhabitants to gain autonomy in managing and participating in internal municipal decisions. iView (the municipal GIS) enables residents, tourists and professionals to comment on the urban environment, fostering transparency, accessibility and active citizen engagement. Through DigiTel, a live app-based service, planning decisions can be observed and logged, present and future construction and renovation works are indicated as alerts, and citizens are offered information on local cultural events. That 60% of Tel Aviv’s residents are registered with the service is testament to the success of the municipality in changing the way residents engage with the urban environment.
As a Smart City, such strong civic involvement has the potential to transform the ways that heritage values and planning – too often seen as distant and unengaging – are communicated and experienced by residents.
While the ‘Smart London’ Plan strives to engage citizens, enable growth and work with businesses, there is little mention of ways in which the Plan envisages communicating heritage values to residents through new technologies. Perhaps London needs to take a lesson from Tel Aviv’s successes to promote ways in which internet and mobile communication can transform conventional interaction with cultural heritage. By using smartphones to create a streamlined network, civic interaction with historical and environmental resources and the urban environment would be apparent. Rather than having apps and email notifications specific only to museums, shops, and locations, if London were to take a holistic approach, users (residents, industry professionals, academics and students) could post and share comments and reviews on the built environment. This would strengthen wider, inclusive and sustainable civic participation and appreciation of London’s rich cultural heritage, changing the way individuals interact with the built environment.
Stella Fox is a Heritage Consultant based in our London office. She recently completed a research project on the twentieth century evolution of Tel Aviv.
 A Smart City is an urban area that uses different types of electronic data collection sensors to supply information and to manage its assets and resources efficiently
 This is a Mayoral initiative which seeks to promote digital collaboration between the Mayor and the London Boroughs
On 10th November, Historic England (HE) published a revised draft of ‘Conservation Principles for the Sustainable Management of the Historic Environment’. This was first launched in 2008 and its sets out HE’s understanding of the term ‘historic significance’ as applied to heritage protection and planning. It will be open for consultation until 2nd February 2018.
The guidance is intended by HE to guide their own staff on best practice, but as a corporate statement by UK government’s statutory advisor and consultee on aspects of the historic environment the document has naturally become a standard reference document for practitioners within the sector, and it underpins the methodologies followed by Lichfields’ heritage team in assessing heritage impact.
Since the introduction of the NPPF in 2012, a major issue has been the misalignment between language and terminology used in ‘Conservation Principles’ and the definition of significance provided in the NPPF glossary. In the 2008 guidance significance was defined as four heritage values: Evidential, Communal, Aesthetic and Historic. These are now replaced by four types of heritage interest: Historic, Archaeological, and Architectural and Artistic. ‘Significant places’ are now referred to as ‘Heritage Assets’, and the role of undesignated heritage assets now has a recognised place in the guidance.
Complying with the NPPF’s streamlined approach, the draft sees three concise chapters replacing eight more lengthy chapters.
This change of terminology, structure and content used in the ‘Conservation Principles’ will be welcomed by those working in the heritage sector, who previously had to grapple with two sets of distinct but overlapping terminology when writing Heritage Impact Assessments and conservation management plans. The realignment of HE’s corporate position with the NPPF also clears up any uncertainty around the status of the HE’s definitions.
If you would like to discuss the draft ‘Conservation Principles’ in more detail, please contact the Heritage Team at Lichfields.