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6th October 2021

Welcome to the latest edition of the Phoenix Project newsletter – a regular update of news and views from our Phoenix Project in Lewes, East Sussex. This newsletter is brought to you by Human Nature, a campaigning development company creating places that inspire and enable people to live great lives within the planet's limits. Sign up to future newsletters here.

Thank you to everyone who came to the Phoenix Project Design Festival. We’re busy working through hundreds of pieces of valuable feedback – emails, post-it notes, mind maps, questions asked at talks and in workshops, videos and questionnaires.

We’ll be reporting back fully in due course, but for now we’d like to share some early findings and link you to a Frequently Asked Questions section (FAQ) on our website, which we’ll keep updated here.

If you didn’t have a chance to visit the exhibition or you’d like to take a second look, you can view the boards online here. Click here to see a gallery of images from the event and here to watch a talk by Jonathan Smales, Human Nature Founder and CEO, on sustainability at the Phoenix Project.

We’ll be uploading more talks and other content from the Design Festival in the coming weeks. If you’d like to visit or revisit the exhibition we’ll be re-opening the Foundry Gallery on Thursday 28th October from 4-8pm and Saturday 30th October from 11-3pm to showcase the main elements of the display, with members of the Human Nature team on hand to answer any questions.

The next steps
We have met many community organisations over the last year, but the Design Festival was the first major public consultation on the evolving masterplan for the site and early designs for homes, flood defence, places to work and community spaces. We’ll feed your comments and ideas into our plans as we refine them and we’ll continue to seek input until we submit a draft planning application in late spring 2022. In the meantime, we intend to make good use of the Foundry Gallery and the open spaces nearby. So if you have an idea for an event or need to hire a temporary space, please do get in touch here.

Appetite for change
Overall, visitors to the Design Festival were strongly in favour of the redevelopment of the site. The town is frustrated by a lack of progress after previous schemes failed to materialise, so understandably people wanted to know what’s different about our plan and are eager to understand when building might begin. There is a huge appetite for the new homes and the new jobs this scheme will bring.   

We received considerable positive feedback for our proposal to build more homes and smaller homes, the majority as apartments and duplexes all with private balconies, balanced with a significant amount of public space, community facilities and places to work (many in upcycled buildings, which not only retain embodied carbon but hold the memory of place). Viability is not just about balancing the books when regenerating a former industrial site, building homes and providing flood defences and other essential infrastructure, it is also about mitigating against the effects of a climate crisis and hence our plans for sustainable construction materials, renewable energy supply, complements and alternatives to private car ownership, abundant greenery and biodiversity, food-growing and a zero waste policy throughout.

Shared living 
There was strong support in early interest forms, questionnaires and two packed-out workshops for shared living including some co-housing on site – as well as for more shared living and shared spaces in general. This included rooftop gardens, courtyards with play areas, bike storage, launderettes and tool sheds, co-working offices and maker spaces. Plans for a series of intimate public squares – the  Foundry Yards in the plan – with a riverside walk and public access for small boats proved to be among the most popular elements of the proposal. 

Most people like our plans to provide a substantial electric car club, hire and share facility and additional car parking in a building at the entrance to the Phoenix, plus an EV freight and parcel pick-up/delivery service. These plans would help keep the neighbourhood safe, clean and pleasant to walk and cycle around. While there will be parking on the street for blue badge, less-abled and loading/drop off, it will be limited for private cars. It might not suit some, but we take inspiration from the Cliffe and New Road in Lewes – both lovely places to be. 

Public space and community
We wanted the festival to embody what we mean by a mixed-use, five-minute neighbourhood where all you need for a full daily life is on the doorstep, especially as this new place will be well connected and integrated with the town centre. To illustrate this, the exhibition was complemented by live music, dancing, activities and local food and drink. This took place in one of the future Foundry Yards and demonstrated the importance of public space and community. We were delighted to hear so many people comment that Lewes would really benefit from public space that could be used this way.

We’ve answered some of the most commonly asked questions about the Phoenix Project – from affordable homes to flood defences and the Health Hub – here in the FAQ section on our website. We’ll keep this updated as conversations develop – so please keep your questions and comments coming. 

(Images by Phillip Volkers)

In the children’s area at the Design Festival we invited budding architects to design features they’d like to see in Lewes in our Little Lewes competition. It proved so popular we ran a second competition at the Lewes Climate Hub’s Planet Party the following weekend. Congratulations to winners Morris, nine (left) and Iris, eight (right).

Watch: Human Nature Founder and CEO Jonathan Smales’ talk on ‘The Why, How and What of Sustainability at the Phoenix Project’, with audience Q&A here.

Look: See a selection of images from the Design Festival, including models and stands inside the Foundry Gallery, music, dancing and food in Hammonds Yard here.

Read: Missed the Design Festival or keen to take a second look? Read the exhibition boards from the Foundry Gallery detailing our plans and key principles here

Read: Want to learn more about the Phoenix Project? Take a look at our Frequently Asked Questions section (FAQ) on our website, which we’ll keep updated, here

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