Planning permission granted for UK’s largest timber neighbourhood

timber neighbourhood

Human Nature’s radically sustainable plan for 685 new timber-frame homes for Lewes, in East Sussex, has been approved.


One year after the proposal to transform a neglected 7.9-hectare brownfield site into a vibrant green neighbourhood was announced, the Phoenix development has been given the go ahead by the South Downs National Park Authority – taking the visionary project a step closer to reality.

The Phoenix site. Image courtesy of Human Nature and Periscope / Ash Sakula Architects.

Looking to provide much needed homes, community spaces and local jobs, this ambitious scheme has been brought forward by developer Human Nature working together with many of the UK’s leading architects, designers and engineers – including TDUK members Whitby Wood, Expedition Engineering, WSP and Eurban.

The development aims to set a new benchmark in urban planning by bringing together best practice in modern methods of construction, energy efficient design and landscape architecture.

“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”, Jonathon Smales, Founder and CEO of Human Nature, says.

“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.”

When completed, it will be the largest timber-structure development in the UK. Buildings will be constructed from engineered timber including CLT, with prefabricated cassettes made from local timber and bio-materials such as hemp, with local apprentices trained on site in modern methods of construction. As much as possible, existing materials from the site’s industrial structures – such as cladding, steel trusses, bricks and buttresses – will be salvaged and repurposed.

As well as considering both operational and embodied carbon, the project has been designed to address a ‘whole-place carbon footprint’, which includes emissions caused by transport and human behaviour on the site all the way until 2100.

The Phoenix’s courtyard gardens

The Phoenix’s courtyard gardens. Image courtesy of Human Nature and Periscope. Sketch by Carlos Penálver.