A place to sit by the Ouse: The Phoenix to create lively new riverfront in Lewes

The Belvedere (Periscope with Human Nature)

The Phoenix neighbourhood will open up the Ouse to Lewes, with riverside seating, new boardwalk and pedestrian bridge, and access point for kayaks and other small craft.

The riverwalk will run the full length of the Phoenix and change character along its route, from boardwalk surrounded by rain gardens and riverine habitats to a raised Belvedere (Italian for ‘beautiful view’) in the centre – providing spectacular views of the Downs and river. 

In the north it will connect to Wiley’s Bridge and the footpath that runs along the waterway to Offham and Hamsey in the north, while, in the south, it will meet the new Foreshore Park, a ​​landscaped park for walking, skating and cycling, with seating and kiosk, designed to soften the Causeway edge and lead into the town. 

The Belvedere will also connect to the Thomas Paine footbridge – providing a glimpse back to the Castle – and to the Foundry Yards, the Phoenix’s largest public square. A new taproom will open on to the Belvedere at mezzanine level – with outdoor tables providing the only place in Lewes to sit and eat and look out to the river. 

Built around repurposed community buildings – such as a canteen, wintergarden and events space and hotel – the Foundry Yards will lead directly onto the river, through arches in the wall to a jetty on the river. 

The proposals are part of Lewes-based Human Nature’s plans for the Phoenix site, which will be submitted as an outline planning application to the South Downs National Park Authority in late September. 

The Phoenix Centre (Periscope with Human Nature)

Founder and CEO Jonathan Smales said: “It’s sometimes said that Lewes was built with its back to the Ouse. With this new neighbourhood, we have an opportunity to readdress that, not only with a beautiful new walk but by creating somewhere to sit, eat and look out on the river – the only place in Lewes that can be done.”  

“We would love to see the Phoenix river walk join up with a new path under the Phoenix Causeway bridge, along the river by Wenban Smith and connect to the precinct and Cliffe High Street.

“The Phoenix site is a hugely important part of Lewes’ history and we have a duty to create something that not only benefits those who live here, but the wider community through jobs, apprenticeship, places to eat, drink and play – and open and beautiful public spaces”. 

The Phoenix will also improve access into the river – with a launch point for small vessels such as kayaks, and a boat house, which will sit at the southern end of the neighbourhood, making it far easier to use the river.

The walk will run adjacent to new flood defences, which include a flood wall, designed by Expedition, one of the country’s leading structural engineers, and built to protect against greater than one-in-100 year floods. 

This banskide area will also provide space for rain gardens, part of the Phoenix’s pluvial flood strategy, and support wildlife, with ecological features promoting new habits and regenerating existing ones for native species.  

The Phoenix will also provide the town with much-needed homes and jobs, including apprenticeships, new community buildings and public squares, flood defences and health centre.