CONSTRUCTION of a new housing development has started on the site of a former hotel in South Marston.

Bellway Homes began preparing the grounds for its Vicarage Gardens scheme which will include 69 houses along with footpaths and green public space.

A Victorian vicarage that later became the South Marston Hotel will be demolished because the foundations are too fire-damaged. A new four-bed family house with a similar appearance to the old building will be built adjacent to it.

Bellway Homes originally submitted plans for the development in August 2018 and Swindon Borough Council approved them in May 2019.

A council spokesman said: "The homes are under construction and sales are launching with Bellway Homes this autumn."

Other properties on the site will include a mixture of two-storey terraced houses and detached homes with parking spaces or garages.

Developers managed to reduce the number of affordable houses in the original plans submitted from providing 14 affordable units down to five.

A Bellway spokesman said: "Vicarage Gardens is a proposed development of new homes in South Marston, enjoying an attractive village location just 15 minutes by car from Swindon town centre.

"The anticipated product mix of two, three and four-bedroom homes will be of appeal to first-time buyers, families and commuters around the region."

The former 60-room hotel and leisure club closed its doors for good in July 2016, to the surprise of its guests and 45-strong staff team.

Much of the site became rubble in the months that followed before a fire charred the few buildings left standing.

The blaze tore through the complex in July 2017, with fire stations from across the county spending several days fighting the flames.

Urban explorers traversed the area and drone footage captured the scorched remnants of the historic hotel which drew comparison to a bomb site.

Police believed the fire was started deliberately but closed their investigation before proving it.

The site’s owner, multi-millionaire businessman Paul Cripps said last year: “We have been backwards and forwards for the last couple of years trying to get planning permission.

"I have a housebuilder on board and everything’s agreed. It was all going through then in 2017, they sprung on us that there’s a noise issue."

The noise issue has since been contested and successfully resolved.