Home » Plans in for UK’s largest timber development

Plans in for UK’s largest timber development

by Sion Geschwindt
Developer Human Nature has submitted plans for what is slated to be the largest timber development ever constructed in the UK.

Developer Human Nature has submitted plans for what will be the UK’s largest timber housing development.

Comprising 18 blocks and a total of 700 homes run on 100% renewable energy, the £430m Phoenix project will be situated on the former Phoenix Ironworks industrial site in Lewes, East Sussex.

Spearheaded by Human Nature, a sustainability-focused development firm founded by former Greenpeace directors Jonathan Smales and Michael Manolson, the mixed-use neighbourhood aims to turn the climate crisis into an opportunity for “better design, better placemaking and ultimately healthier and better living.”

Mae Architects, Ash Sakula and Charles Holland are among 13 practices which have drawn up designs for the job. Other firms on the project team include Arup, masterplanners Periscope, environmental engineers Atelier Ten and timber specialists Whitby Wood.

The scheme will ’prioritise people over cars’ (credit: Human Nature with Periscope Architecture by Ash Sakula)

The scheme will ’prioritise people over cars’ and feature shared gardens, courtyards and rooftops that aim to encourage interaction between people and a culture of sharing, the developer said.

It will be built using the latest modern methods of construction and with a range of alternatives to concrete and steel including bio-based fibres for insulation. Much of the timber will be sourced locally, and the scheme looks to reuse as much of the site’s existing materials as possible.

The community will be centred around industrial structures that were formerly part of the Phoenix Ironworks, which will be repurposed into a community canteen serving low-cost seasonal food, an event hall, a taproom and a creative space.

An aerial CGI of the Pheonix development on the left bank of the River Ouse (credit: Human Nature with Periscope Architecture by Ash Sakula)

Human Nature chief executive Smales, who lives in Lewes, said the site had fallen into disrepair after years of neglect and deserved a “thoughtful and respectful reimagination”.

“The way we design and make places, buildings and infrastructures, even the way we live, share and co-exist in communities, urgently needs a re-think,” he said.

The proposals also include 3,300m² of workspace, eight public squares and gardens, 50 electric car hire and car club vehicles in a new co-mobility hub, a health centre. The developers promise £15 million towards flood defences too.

Arup director of masterplanning and urban design Kathryn Firth said the project was about not just about construction methodology, but also changing residents’ behaviours to make a place that was “truly sustainable”.

“Everyone’s talking the talk about sustainability, but not many are actually putting the principles into practice,” she said. 

A planning application for the development is set to be submitted to the South Downs National Park Authority this week and a decision is expected later in the year.

Read next: Green light for one of London’s largest timber developments

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