Pells Garden (Credit: Human Nature with Periscope)

The Phoenix is a sustainable neighbourhood on a former industrial site in Lewes, a historic town within the South Downs National Park
Location
Lewes, UK
Status
Pre-application
Size
7.8 hectares
Masterplanning, planning and urban design
Periscope, Human Nature, Kathryn Firth (Arup), Whaleback
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This new neighbourhood turns the imperatives of the climate and natural emergencies into opportunities for better design, better placemaking and ultimately healthier and better living. Planned to prioritise people over cars, powered by renewable energy and designed to encourage a culture of sharing, it represents a new and regenerative way to make a place, build a community and create a more productive local economy fit for the 21st century. 

Constructed primarily in sustainable timber, some of which will come from Sussex woodlands and led, funded and built by local people, the Phoenix is naturally and necessarily of its place. It seeks to capture the radical spirit of Lewes and enhance its extraordinary landscape. These plans and the wider development process associated with them, creates multiple opportunities to bind with more disadvantaged communities, chart pathways out of disadvantage for young people and house a wide community of families well, while improving the quality of life for all who live, work and play here.

Human Nature has assembled a world class team, left, to undertake this ambitious project. 
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1. Pells Gardens Courtyard
Housing
2. Spring Lane Courtyard & Mews
Housing
3. Rowe Lane Courtyard & Mews
Housing
4. Pells Lane Courtyard & Mews
Housing
5. Brook Street Co-Housing
Housing
6. Green grocers
Retail
7. The Foundry Apartments
Housing, retail, workspace
8. The Health Hub
Foundry Primary Care Practice, North Street Dental Practice, complementary health services, pharmacy
9. Phoenix House
Offices, training, learning
10. Spring Gardens Apartments
Housing
11. Phoenix Square Live/Work & Creative Studios
Housing and creative space
12. Soap yard
13. Soap Factory
Bouldering, climbing, skateboarding, dance, Starfish Studios, arts space, juice bar, energy centre
14. Phoenix Neighbourhood Management
Estate management, repair café, library of things, zero-waste store
15. Full Cycle & Apartments
Retail, housing
16. Phoenix Cycle Lane
17. Mobility Hub & Services
EV car share, car hire and car club; EV bike service and shuttle bus, last-mile freight, vehicle servicing and repair; 310 car-parking spaces
18. Causeway Foreshore Park
Landscaped garden, kiosk, public toilets, river viewing platform
19. Foreshore Apartments
Housing
20. Ouse Slipway
Access to river, boat storage
21. Phoenix Riverside Apartments & Lofts
Housing
22. The Foundry Hotel
50 rooms, meeting facilities, rooftop gardens and restaurant, cocktail bar, events hire
23. Every Hall Community Centre
Community centre, co-working, Phoenix Canteen, wintergarden, retail
24. Foundry Yards Gallery
Community events, business conferences, exhibitions, performance
25. Foundry Yards
26. Thomas Paine bridge
27. Brook Street Galleries
Housing, makers’ space, retail
28. River Walk Garden and Belvedere
Seating, planters, taproom,  pop-up cafés, music venue
29. Foundry Workshops
Makers studios and creative spaces
30. Ouse Villa Apartments
Housing
31. North Street Apartments & Lofts
Housing, nursery
32. Jacobs Square Townhouses & Courtyard Homes
Housing
1. Pells Gardens Courtyard
Housing
2. Spring Lane Courtyard & Mews
Housing
3. Rowe Lane Courtyard & Mews
Housing
4. Pells Lane Courtyard & Mews
Housing
5. Brook Street Co-Housing
Housing
6. Green grocers
Retail
7. The Foundry Apartments
Housing, retail, workspace
8. The Health Hub
Foundry Primary Care Practice, North Street Dental Practice, complementary health services, pharmacy
9. Phoenix House
Offices, training, learning
10. Spring Gardens Apartments
Housing
11. Phoenix Square Live/Work & Creative Studios
Housing and creative space
12. Soap Yard
13. Soap Factory
Bouldering, climbing, skateboarding, dance, Starfish Studios, arts space, juice bar
14. Phoenix Neighbourhood Management
Estate management, mobility services, deliveries, repairs and maintenance, offices
15. Full Cycle & Apartments
Retail, housing
16. Phoenix Cycle Lane
17. Mobility Hub & Services
EV car share, car hire and car club; EV bike service and shuttle bus, last-mile freight, vehicle servicing and repair; 310 car-parking spaces
18. Causeway Foreshore Park
Landscaped garden, kiosk, public toilets, river viewing platform
19. Foreshore Apartments
Housing
20. Ouse slipway
Access to river, boat storage
21. Phoenix Riverside Apartments & Lofts
Housing
22. The Foundry Hotel
50 rooms, meeting facilities, rooftop gardens and restaurant, cocktail bar, events hire
23. Every Hall Community Centre
Community centre, coworking, Phoenix Canteen, wintergarden, retail
24. Foundry Yards Gallery
Community events, business conferences, exhibitions, performance
25. Foundry Yards
26. Thomas Paine bridge
27. Brook Street Galleries
Housing, makers’ space, retail
28. River Walk Garden and Belvedere
Seating, planters, taproom, pop-up cafés, music venue
29. Foundry Workshops
Community centre
30. Ouse Villa Apartments
Housing
31. North Street Apartments & Lofts
Housing, nursery
32. Jacobs Square Townhouses & Courtyard Homes
Housing
“This
looks like
the
beginning
of
the
future”
Visitor to the Design Festival
The development will transform a neglected brownfield site into a beautiful, green place, providing the town with much-needed homes and jobs, community spaces, a river walk, flood defences and health centre. At the heart of the neighbourhood will be a series of public squares connecting to a community canteen, event hall, taproom, fitness centre, workspace and makers’ studios, much of which will be housed within repurposed industrial structures. Shared courtyards, parks, green corridors and rooftop gardens will enable social interaction, promote communal living and provide habitats for local wildlife.

The masterplan for the Phoenix comprises 18 different housing blocks designed by 12 different architects. This rich mix gives the neighbourhood diversity, character and housing choice, allowing a truly mixed-income neighbourhood. The homes are primarily apartments – not apartments as we have come to know them in the UK, but solid, natural, double-aspect homes where air circulates well and natural daylight illuminates the space. 
The Phoenix Industrial Estate in 2022
The North Street area and Phoenix Industrial Estate, although neglected today, played a crucial role in the history of Lewes and wider Sussex. It was home to the Phoenix Ironworks, established on the site by John Every in 1861. At its peak, it comprised multiple workshops and foundry buildings, supplying railings, bandstands and decorative ironwork across the county and beyond. In more recent years, the site played host to much of Lewes’s  creative community, with art studios, a theatre and music venues on the site. A fire broke out in 2014, accelerating the site’s decline.

The site was marked for potential redevelopment in the early 2000s, resulting in a series of failed proposals, including the plans by investment fund Santon for the North Street Quarter. At the same time, a group of local people established Lewes Phoenix Rising with the aim of making sure that the plans being developed were consistent with the town’s needs for more affordable housing and workspace. Human Nature acquired the site in 2019.
The Phoenix Project Design Festival
Community
The Phoenix will be a neighbourhood for everyone, with abundant green space, community facilities and new river walk
“More
than
anything,
the
Phoenix
suggests
that
living
sustainably
will
make
for
a
better
life”
Meredith Bowles, principal, Mole Architects
The Foundry Yards will be the civic heart of the Phoenix. Built around two industrial heritage structures, the Every Hall and the Foundry Workshops, this pedestrianised square will lead on to an elevated Belvedere and a new riverside walk. On the square will be a nightclub, community canteen, co-working and creative makers’ space, a new events and music space and, through arches in the flood wall, to the river front.

The Phoenix will embrace its position at the edge of the Ouse, opening up the riverfront to Lewes. A Belvedere and boardwalk will run the length of the Phoenix, connecting to Willeys Bridge in the north and the Causeway Foreshore Park to the south. It will widen in the centre, where elevated gardens will provide a place to sit and take in views of the river and Downs. Here it will connect to a new pedestrian bridge across the Ouse to Malling. A launch point and boat house will sit at the southern end of the site.
The Foundry Yards (Credit: Human Nature with Periscope)
The Every Hall (previously the Hammonds building) was built between 1860-1873 and used as the main casting hall in the Phoenix Ironworks. We plan to use the building as a community club, flexible co-working space and community canteen, which will serve seasonal low-cost food. The building will open on to the Foundry Yards to the west, with the structure extended to incorporate a winter garden to the south-east. A mezzanine will provide additional desk space and allow access from the Belvedere and riverside walk.
The Foundry Workshops, originally used as a Smiths shop by the Phoenix Ironworks, will sit to the west of the Foundry Yards. It will continue the site’s long history of manufacture and creativity by providing rentable workspace for makers, artists and craftspeople, some of which will be shared. The building will also house a microbrewery and, at mezzanine level, a taproom, which will open on to the Belvedere.
The Soap Factory opening on to the Soap Yard (Credit: Human Nature with Periscope)
Opening on to the Soap Yard, a new public space, will be a family-friendly sports and wellness centre in The Soap Factory, once home to John Gosnell soap manufacturers. It will particularly appeal to the interests of children, teenagers and young adults – groups not always well catered for in Lewes. We are working with partners to explore the inclusion of music studios, a juice bar, fitness rooms, an indoor skatepark, parkour and bouldering centre.
Design & services
The Phoenix will be inherently sustainable – in the way it is designed, how it is built and through the lives its residents are able to lead
The Phoenix will be particularly notable for its use of structural timber, which will be used on all new buildings on site (with the exception of the Mobility Hub). Engineered timber offers the structural strength of ‘traditional’ materials, such as concrete and steel, but with lower embodied carbon. In fact, timber sourced from sustainable, well-managed forests is regenerative – it sequesters carbon, giving timber structure buildings a negative carbon impact overall.
We also intend to, as the architect Duncan Baker-Brown has put it, ‘mine the Anthropocene’: that is, reuse materials that have already been created and therefore retain and capture their embodied carbon. In addition to retention of  three industrial heritage structures and our office, Phoenix House, we are conducting an audit to reveal what site materials can be reused in building structures, such as steel trusses and cladding, brick walls and buttressing, and what can be recycled for ‘cut and fill’ (to level and landscape the site) or reconstituted as bricks.
CLT structures and wall cassette system (Credit: TDO)
We intend to create a place that inspires and enables all to live well within the planet’s means, providing excellent recycling, waste management and composting facilities onsite. The latter provides a good example of the Phoenix circular economy: food waste will be composted, providing fertilisation for urban farming, where food is grown for the neighbourhood canteen, cafés and restaurant. We are providing spaces for residents to set up their own ventures focused on upcycling, repair and reuse: what can’t be fixed or upcycled will be sorted on site for recycling, with only the residual material collected by the council.
“Sustainability
is
at
the
heart
of
everything
from
construction
methodology
through
to
the
masterplan”
Kathryn Firth, director, masterplanning and urban design, Arup
We  intend to implement a neighbourhood-wide energy system and grid, characterised by highly efficient buildings and renewable energy. The latter will be generated through rooftop photovoltaics (PV) and by off-site renewable energy facilities. For heat generation, our favoured options are ground and water source heat pumps. The overall strategy is informed by site-specific climatic analysis for passive, low-energy comfort conditioning, ventilation and daylighting, including analyses of temperature, humidity, solar energy and other factors that affect design.
The Phoenix will also promote the practice of shared living: of space, resources, amenities and ideas. The neighbourhood will provide community centres and outdoor space – including courtyards, play areas, gardens and green roofs – that encourage interaction between people of all ages. The culture of sharing will extend to a library of things (where tools and utensils can be borrowed), electric car club and hire service and public squares, such as the Foundry Yards. The homes in the neighbourhood are mostly apartments, from compact studios to larger family flats as opposed to detached houses and, although will have ‘defensible’ outdoor spaces, courtyards and shared green space are favoured over private gardens.
North Street (Credit: Human Nature with Periscope)
The Mobility Hub is among the most important buildings on the Phoenix, channelling vehicles to the southern tip of the neighbourhood, creating streets safe for walking, cycling and for children playing. Space traditionally used for private driveways can instead be put to communal use: shared courtyards, playgrounds and rain gardens.

The Hub will contain parking spaces, an electric car share, car hire and car club; electric bike service and shuttle bus, vehicle servicing and repair, and a ‘last-mile’ freight facility – carrying goods into the neighbourhood. Services such as car hire will be operated by an app, allowing residents to book vehicles whenever needed, reducing the need to own a private car (aided by the fact that most daily needs can be met within a short walk).