PROGRESS on the Wichelstowe housing development is being made with a shortlist of potential developers being drawn up.

The site will eventually see 4,500 houses built and after some key alterations were made to the planning permission earlier this month, the council has been able to move forward.

Initially nine private companies declared an interest but this has now been whittled down with the preferred bidder expected to be announced in September.

All have passed critical evaluation criteria relating to their financial standing, and experience and capability in delivering strategic developments.

At a planning committee meeting it was decided to increase the number of houses which needed to be occupied before key infrastructure was built from 1,000 to 2,500.

On top of that, key roads to be built on the site were altered and the number of affordable homes required was dropped. This was done as a result of a change in market conditions since permission was first granted.

The next phase of the project will see the remaining 75 per cent of the land, which is owned by Swindon Council and comprises Middle and West Wichel, developed with a maximum of 3,700 homes.

Approximately 650 homes have already been completed and occupied on the first phase, East Wichel, and a new Waitrose supermarket, which forms part of the planned District Centre, will open within the next two months Coun Mike Bawden (Con Chiseldon and Lawn), the cabinet member for Strategic Projects and Transformation, said: “Identifying the developer shortlist is a crucial step in the project, and the level of interest we have had from some very major private sector companies is proof of the potential and promise of the whole Wichelstowe development.

“We are on track in terms of timescales and I am pleased that all parties represented on the council are fully behind our efforts, through the cross-party project group which is collaborating to oversee the project.”

The Labour group spokesman for resources, Coun Des Moffatt (Lab, Rodbourne Cheney) said: “I am content we are on the right track at last to deliver the housing crucial for Swindon’s resumed economic development following the banking crash of 2008.”

Coun Stan Pajak (Lib Dem, Eastcott), the leader of the council’s Liberal Democrat Group, said: “This is the latest in a number of important steps towards delivering a high quality and desirable place to live, and which sets the benchmark for future development in the Borough.”