Sustainable Neighborhood Development Prioritizes Walkability, Healthy Food Access

Sketch of a courtyard in The Phoenix development

(Credit: Human Nature)

by | Feb 21, 2024

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The Food Foundation and Human Nature Places have received permission to proceed with a new development in Lewes, East Sussex, which is expected to be the most sustainable neighborhood in the United Kingdom.

The new development, called The Phoenix, will be walkable and encourage shared living, and aims to create a neighborhood built around community, health, and food.

The multi-use development plans to include 685 homes, with 30% of homes designated as affordable housing. It is also expected to deliver a significant biodiversity net gain and aims to prioritize positive social impact. The Phoenix aims to be a blueprint for future sustainable development — will be built on a nearly 20-acre brownfield, or a former industrial site, and it will reportedly be the largest timber-structure neighborhood in the U.K.

Project Emphasizes Access to Healthy Food Within Urban Environment

The Food Foundation helps cities implement programs that allow for access to healthy diets and improve urban food systems, both of which will be reflected in the new project. The neighborhood is set to include opportunities to grow food across the site in courtyards, near community buildings, and along its river walkway. On-site recycling and composting facilities will also support the development’s urban-farming and community-gardening strategy.

“Our broken food system makes it very hard for people to make healthy and sustainable food choices,” said Jo Ralling, head of campaigns and development for the Food Foundation. “Working with Human Nature on their visionary plans for The Phoenix will enable us to build a positive food culture into the fabric of an entire neighborhood.”

The development also plans to include a community canteen, which will offer locally sourced, affordable meals to the neighborhood and Lewes at large.

Development Reflects Trend of Sustainable, Community-Centric Urban Planning

Human Nature Places is a sustainable urban planning company founded by former Greenpeace directors. The company implements practices to reduce emissions associated with the built environment, such as focusing on walkability, including abundant green spaces, and using less energy-intensive construction strategies.

In a study from 2021, Deloitte identified a number of trends that indicate a general global shift towards more sustainable urban planning, including increased emphasis on the 15-minute city, green public spaces, smart buildings, and human-centered design meant to foster community.

The Phoenix development responds directly to these trends and further emphasizes the ability of neighborhoods to provide local, fresh food to improve human health while reducing emissions associated with large-scale agriculture.

“Too often urban environments prevent people making the choices they want to feed themselves or cook for their children,” said Ralling. “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.”

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