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Huge timber neighbourhood given the greenlight in the UK

Plans to construct a 685-home scheme in East Sussex, which will be largest timber neighbourhood in the UK, have been given the go-ahead. 

Human Nature, a sustainable construction company which was founded by former Greenpeace directors Michael Manolson and Jonathan Smales, have been granted permission to progress with their plans to create the UK’s largest timber neighbourhood.

Known as ‘The Phoenix Project’, the development will see 685 new homes built as well as 3,500sq m of workspace, a health centre, community space, a restaurant, a bar, retail space, a nursey, an energy centre, a new footbridge over the river Ouse, a riverside walkway, and areas of public realm.

South Downs National Park’s planning committee approved detailed plans for the first 44 homes last Thursday morning and gave outline permission for the rest of scheme.

The development is set to be situated within the South Downs National Park and is estimated to include 30% affordable housing.

Jonathan Smales, chief executive of Human Nature, said: ‘The current mainstream model of development is catastrophic, baking in deeply unsustainable fabric, infrastructure, and transport, fuelling the climate and nature crises; it also creates social divisions and exacerbates loneliness.

‘We aim to show that living sustainably can be a joy, not an exercise in self-denial, made far easier by the design of neighbourhoods. 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.’

‘Our focus on radically improving environmental and social impacts through the power of placemaking is uncommon in 21st-century Britain,’ Jonathan said. ‘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.’

As well as including plans to create new affordable homes, the development also seeks to emphasise connections in shared spaces and incorporates a co-mobility hub that includes electric car share, electric bike service, and a shuttle bus facility for people who may struggle to get around by walking or cycling.

Prior to making the decision that they were going to advance with their new neighbourhood plans, Human Nature spoke with local residents, community groups and businesses to ensure the project would be suitable for everyone. The scheme went through three rounds of consultation since the initial application was submitted in early 2023.

Image: Human Nature and Periscope / Ash Sakula Architects

More on this topic:

Biodiversity net gain rules have finally come into force in England

Biodiversity net gain rules have finally come into force in England

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