Planning permission granted for ‘UK’s most sustainable neighbourhood’

One year after proposals were announced for the transformation of a 7.9-hectare brownfield site into the UK’s most sustainable neighbourhood, the Phoenix development has been granted planning permission, taking the visionary project a step closer to reality.

Designed to prioritise people over cars, the Phoenix will be a walkable, multi-use development on a former industrial site in Lewes, within the South Downs National Park.

The mixed-income, multi-tenure development will provide 685 homes (with 30% affordable – made up of 154 homes at local housing allowance levels and the remainder as First Homes), creating a place to start out in life and a place to stay.

When complete, it will be the UK’s largest timber-structure neighbourhood, and a blueprint for sustainable placemaking and social impact that can be deployed at scale.

The project has been brought forward by Human Nature, a campaigning development company that designs, builds and manages intrinsically sustainable places which respond to the crises in climate, nature and health.

The Lewes-based company, which was founded by former Greenpeace directors Michael Manolson and Jonathan Smales, promotes ‘exponential sustainability’, making it easy and enjoyable for people to live sustainably and well.

Human Nature is working with some of the UK’s leading architects, landscape designers and engineers plus local businesses and foundations to create breakthrough models in sustainable placemaking, prioritising social value and impact.

The Phoenix was masterplanned by Human Nature’s in-house design team, regenerative design agency Periscope, and Kathryn Firth, director of masterplanning and urban design at Arup.

Jonathan Smales, Founder and CEO of Human Nature, said: “The current mainstream model of development is catastrophic, baking in deeply unsustainable fabric, infrastructure and transport, fuelling the climate and nature crises; it also creates social divisions and exacerbates loneliness. We aim to show that living sustainably can be a joy, not an exercise in self-denial, made far easier by the design of neighbourhoods. We’re working with an amazing team, bringing together best practices in sustainable design, urbanism and construction to provide a new breakthrough model with the Phoenix.

“Our focus on radically improving environmental and social impacts through the power of placemaking is uncommon in 21st-century Britain. But the result won’t feel unfamiliar, rather a return to traditions we’ve forgotten: a place of elegantly designed buildings made using local materials, streets safe for children to play in, with most daily needs met within a short walk and where it’s easy to meet and socialise with your neighbours.”