A tribute to Phoenix Rising

Ahead of the Phoenix Project Design Festival, Human Nature Founder & CEO Jonathan Smales pays tribute to Phoenix Rising – a unique campaigning group that played a huge part in the history of the site. 

I’ve been involved in planning and development issues for many years and almost always community groups form in opposition to something but offer little in the way of an alternative. Let’s face it: many  (maybe most) development proposals are simplistic profit-making ventures designed to pass risk on to others while

cashing in on any old unsustainable and banal development. Good alternatives are hard to find.

In this context Phoenix Rising was a most unusual community action group. I love their  most memorable slogan: ‘we want development – we just want it to be brilliant’. Their opposition came with an alternative proposition. And they foresaw that the North Street Quarter proposal wouldn’t be viable, they somehow financed and presented their own masterplan and ran an incredible, creative campaign.”

When the land at the Phoenix came on what real estate agents call, ‘the market’, we met Phoenix Rising to discuss what a successful bid might look like. One could not but be impressed by their passion, knowledge of the town, their take on what ‘good development’ might be like, their connections and their staying power.  A formidable and inspiring group of people I am thrilled to have come to know well. 

I want to pay tribute to Juliette Oxborrow, Andrew Simpson, Richard Moore, latterly Sheila O’Sullivan, Will Anderson (now one of our architects on the new proposals), the inexorable Chelsea Renton, and the thousands of Lewesians who got behind their efforts.    

Phoenix Rising appears to have disbanded now which I, for one, am slightly saddened by. The job is not yet done. The Phoenix is yet to rise of course and good people need to keep a watching brief and fight to achieve the highest standards and best results for our town.