Communities exercise a number of important responsibilities on behalf of their citizens. These may occur in the areas of transport, hygiene, shelter and social services. Communities also encourage development to provide an adequate financial base for desired activity and suitable levels of employment. In historic towns of special importance, protection of a community's heritage should not occur at the expense of goals in these areas; by the same token, these goals should not necessarily take precedence over those of conservation.

Adoption of an "integrated conservation" approach implicitly acknowledges the extent to which actions to support conservation and other community social, cultural and economic goals must support each other. It also suggests the degree to which conservation and other programmes must employ indicators which cross a wide spectrum of social / cultural / economic areas, if their effectiveness is to be fully measured and improved.

Even though cultural and social benefits are difficult to quantify in terms as precise as those for financial aspects, it is important to describe these qualitative measures as accurately as possible. In recent years, economists have begun to measure the qualitative benefits of heritage conservation as well as those of other social programmes; their experiences and case studies are only now beginning to provide useful reference standards.

Similarly, it is possible to identify a great number of financial indicators of interest to conservation programmes, including vacancy rates for residential and commercial tenancies, annual spending on property rehabilitation and repair, and the municipal tax base. In urban centres, population instability, industrial obsolescence, decaying municipal infrastructure, shifting patterns of use, the desire to increase motor vehicle accessibility (usually at the expense of the pedestrian environment), the gentrification of older residential and commercial neighbourhoods, and the growth of uncontrolled tourism are just a few of the over-riding trends in which conservation policies must function.



Housing in historic towns can present special problems. Often below contemporary standards of space, safety, stability or sanitation, residential improvement may easily result in the destruction of its historic qualities. If associated costs can not be borne by the residents, then upgrading efforts may also result in their displacement, and erosion of the neighbourhood's social make-up. This phenomenon, known as "gentrification", may be regretted as much as the loss of physical forms and detail to the the introduction of incompatible new materials and systems.

Many successful approaches have been adopted in historic cities to address these major problems :

  • technological advances have permitted dampness and other unhealthy states to be controlled; for example, damp walls may now be separated from the sources of ground moisture with the insertion of damp-proof courses;
  • smaller apartments have been combined to create larger, more suitable units without unnecessary sacrifice of external forms;
  • subsidies from public authorities have allowed extra costs of housing improvement to be met by the public purse;
  • citizens have been encouraged to form co-operatives and to become owners of their own properties, at preferential interest rates and pay-back periods.



Though archaeological vestiges within some of the cities on the World Heritage List suggest early concern for the supply of water and sewage, these examples seem rare Many of these early systems are now in a state of perpetual decay, and quite unable to meet the increasing needs of the cities above them, without radical rebuilding.

Unfortunately, in historic cities, the ongoing trenching necessary to repair and upgrade these systems results in greater and greater destruction of below-ground archaeological resources. The palliative of "archaeological salvage" only permits recovery of a fraction of threatened material, and most such excavation occurs without adequate archaeological supervision. Equally, the desire to improve public transit with underground tunnelling, or to improve the aesthetic appearance of historic districts by burying communications wiring or underground parking may threaten the integrity of the archaeologically valuable substratum.

Approaches to maintaining and upgrading municipal services to modern standards which do not compromise conservation goals will likely focus on:

  • building-in long-term quality in materials choice and fabrication in below ground water and sewer systems;
  • questioning the conventional wisdom (e.g. the view that electrical services, or parking are always best hidden from view below ground).
  • preparing surveys of archaeological potential, which permit assessment of risk with each proposed subterranean intrusion.



Vehicular traffic is generally perceived as a threat to the integrity of historic towns. The scale and pattern of streets created before the arrival of the motor car do not easily provide the convenience and accessibility that modern day motorists or coach companies might desire.

At the same time, improving the ability of the roads system to deliver people and goods to the workplace and customers to the marketplace is generally perceived as critical to a city's economic functioning. Historic cities seek traffic management systems which increase accessibility without detriment to heritage character. Analysis of options for improvement should therefore rely on criteria free from untested assumptions.

For example, in dealing with an access problem, criteria should address the need to bring a given number of people (rather than vehicles) to work in a given time period; in dealing with servicing, criteria should address the need to provide adequate service to stores during reasonable hours, not simply the need to provide front unloading space for service vehicles; in dealing with parking problems of inadequate space, applicable criteria should address adequacy and type of spaces required to meet needs by sectors in a city, rather than simply generalizing about global numbers of spaces required; and in managing the clustering of tour buses around important destinations, attention should give priority to provision of adequate points for drop-off and pick-in preference to simply increasing parking spaces.

  • traffic "calming": measures which inhibit driver behaviour, including introduction of speed bumps, narrowing junctions and placing carriageways and sidewalks on the same level;
  • "park and ride" schemes : measures providing good public transit connections to the center of the city;
  • mini-trans-shipment depots : small storage depots within pedestrian precincts, permitting further distribution to retail outlets by means of small carts or trolleys.



In many historic cities, the security of the pedestrian environment has been threatened by efforts to improve motor-car accessibility. In the last two decades, growing awareness of the value of maintaining the amenity offered to cities by pedestrian precincts has reversed the trend of the earlier part of the century.

Older European cities have almost all delineated walking zones, usually along major shopping streets. Vehicular access is usually limited to service vehicles at relatively quiet periods of the day. In many cases, these districts work very well from a variety of points of view:

  • maintaining oasis of relative tranquility for citizens, free from the noise and pollution of main traffic arteries;
  • protecting older districts from the physical wear and tear occasioned by cars and trucks;
  • maintaining a sense of civility and visual order in districts unformed by the needs of the car, where for example, traditional paving patterns and materials have been maintained;
  • acting as magnets for local residents and visitors, and thus stimulating economic vitality.

Other parts of the world, envious of the older, humanly- scaled environments of Europe which offer such scope for developing pedestrian experience have often attempted to import these ideas, with mixed results. In North Africa, for example, such efforts have not usually been successful. While it has been possible to re-create the amenity of European pedestrian environments, economic upgrading has not always accompanied these efforts. In North America, the greater distances between work and home, the greater dependence on the car and different attitudes to leisure have resulted in the long-term business and activity declines observed in most North American pedestrian zones.

The success of pedestrianization schemes will usually follow from analysis of a broad range of factors, including social and economic patterns, in the planning stages.



Many historic cities, confronting decaying or obsolete economies, recognize their special character as an asset which can be exploited for economic gain. If unmanaged, the development of these assets for tourism may present as many problems as it solves, increasing the degradation of popular historic structures and spaces, and alienating the local population both from the visitors and the valuable sites they have come to see.

As well, economic benefits cited as accruing to the community, often end up in the hands of outsiders or remote tour operators. Many towns, having suffered at the hands of indiscriminate tourism, are beginning to develop a broader approach, called "heritage tourism", or "cultural tourism". This approach continues to view tourism as a development opportunity, and historic quarters as prime assets - but the goal has broadened to offer tourists not just destinations, but experiences. The approach expands contact between visitors and visited, encourages small-scale local economic opportunities (e.g. bed and breakfast), kindles the civic pride of "hosts", disperses tourists over a wider spectrum of activities and sites and keeps much of the investment in local hands.