Benfield Valley

A Modular House Builder asked us to prepare a masterplan and representations to City Plan part 2, prior to submitting a planning application, for a new Lifetime Community on this substantial piece of land adjacent to the South Downs National Park.

The site is outside the built-up area and acts as a green lung within the north-western part of the City. We prepared proposals to provide 600 homes, badly need in a City unable to remotely meet their housing needs, and maintain a substantially upgraded Green Lung and Ecology Corridor with improved access to the National Park.

The plan was to provide an exemplar development through modular volumetric construction, providing very high thermal and acoustic performance with significant cost and time benefits, dramatic reduction in construction waste and minimal disturbance. The brief was also to create a sustainable ‘Lifetime Development’ which enables and encourages people of all ages and generations to mix and be enriched with facilities and housing as follows:

  • Accommodation and facilities for the Elderly, including bowling green and tennis courts, a new Doctor’s Surgery and Community Building housing the resource/information centre for the Benfield Hill Nature Reserve.
  • Accommodation and facilities for young people (upon completion of their higher education) including start up office space, work friendly cafe/refectory, gym, cinema room etc and an outdoor courtyard space for community use and events.
  • A substantial number of houses and apartments for families including a number of custom build plots for people to be able to take part in the design of their own home, whilst providing a mixture of tenancies across the site and thereby creating a substantial affordable element to the development.

An equally important part of the brief was to provide a biodiversity exemplar housing community following the principles set out for the Brighton & Lewes Downs Biosphere; to provide a “Gateway” to the South Downs National Park by way of an ecology corridor for the movement of wildlife and people north-south between the Old Shoreham Road (A270) and the National Park. This allowed the design team to build in the following to the masterplan:


  • Improvement to public access to the Benfield Hill Nature Reserve and the National Park, north of the A27.
  • Provision of a refuge for wildlife and a corridor for its movement.
  • Retention and enhancement to the green qualities of the existing Rights of Way through the site.


The exemplar extends to the idea of seeking to re-engineer the space around people’s homes, to reconfigure the streets using Home Zone principles to create living streets and generating a new feeling of community and an improving the quality of life, and seek to integrate, but balance, the use of the motor car in the overall layout with walking/cycling, and change the perception in the way people perceive the street. To make the motorist feel they have left the normal highway and that they are “guests” in a pedestrian environment and should drive accordingly.