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‘The UK’s most sustainable neighbourhood’

Planning permission granted for sustainable neighbourhood that prioritises healthy diets and lifestyles
Katie Hill - Editor-in-Chief, My Green Pod
View towards Kingston and Lewes from the South Downs in East Sussex

The Food Foundation is to partner with Human Nature Places on a unique new sustainable neighbourhood development in Lewes, East Sussex after planning permission was granted by the South Downs National Park planning committee.
A health and food strategy will be central to the new Phoenix development, which is set to transform a 7.9 hectare brownfield site into ‘the most sustainable neighbourhood in the UK’.

Sustainable lifestyles

Designed to prioritise people over cars, the Phoenix will be a walkable, multi-use development on a former industrial site that will provide a unique neighbourhood with community, health and food central to its culture.
The mixed-income, multi-tenure development will provide 685 homes with 30% affordable housing, creating a place where people will be able to embrace a more sustainable lifestyle.

When complete, it will be the UK’s largest timber-structure neighbourhood, and a blueprint for sustainable placemaking and positive social impact that can be deployed at scale.
The project has been developed 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 was founded by former Greenpeace directors Michael Manolson and Jonathan Smales.

Promoting healthy diets

The project will build on The Food Foundation’s previous Food Cities initiative, which aimed to mobilise and support city authorities in Birmingham and around the world to develop and implement food policies, strategies and multi-stakeholder partnerships that aim to increase access to healthy diets and generate a positive impact on urban food systems.
The project will include a series of courtyards and community buildings, and provide a walkway along the River Ouse; there will be opportunities to grow food across the site.

A community canteen will provide locally sourced and affordable meals to the neighbourhood and the people of Lewes. There will also be on-site recycling, waste-management schemes and composting facilities, and an urban-farming and community-gardening strategy.
Children growing up at the Phoenix will be able to attend a brand-new nursery with access to healthy fresh food and where food education will be central to its ethos.

‘Our broken food system makes it very hard for people to make healthy and sustainable food choices. Working with Human Nature on its visionary plans for The Phoenix will enable us to build a positive food culture into the fabric of an entire neighbourhood.

‘Too often urban environments prevent people making the choices they want to feed themselves or cook for their children. We are seeing, obesity, food poverty and diet-related disease at record levels with the current cost-of-living crisis making it even harder for people to afford fruit and vegetables.

‘We aim to work with Human Nature to create a toolkit to enable all urban development to put food systems central to their thinking and give the future generation better long term outcomes.’

Head of campaigns and development, The Food Foundation

Designed for social value

The Phoenix will also be the home to a new health centre where social prescribing and prevention can tackle obesity and diet-related diseases, with opportunities to trial new approaches. 
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 prioritising social value and impact.

These include Archio, Stirling Prize-winner Mae, regenerative design agency Periscope, Arup, Expedition Engineering and Whitby Wood.
At the planning committee on 15 February 2024, members voted for a resolution to grant planning permission, subject to section 106 agreements and resolution of outstanding issues with National Highways.

‘We are delighted to be working in partnership with The Food Foundation. Our aim is to create a food culture and environment to tackle the reversible trends we are currently seeing at a National Level.

‘The current mainstream model of development is catastrophic. Not only does it fuel unsustainable lifestyles and the climate crisis it also creates social divisions which exacerbate loneliness and fail to tackle obesity or diet-related diseases.

‘Our focus on radically improving environmental and social impacts through the power of placemaking can create a template for the towns of tomorrow.’

Founder and CEO of Human Nature

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