THE main board of Waitrose has approved plans to deliver the Wichelstowe District Centre, which would kickstart the next phase of home-building.

The 3.5-hectare district centre site, in what will be Middle Wichel, is at fields off Peglars Way and Foxham Way. There is outline permission for the site, which includes a convenience store of up to 2,500 sq m net floor space and a car park with 250 spaces.

Swindon Council is to enter into an agreement, subject to planning consent and a sale price being established, to sell the site to Waitrose, which would then develop the canal-front district centre, with its shop as the anchor store.

The authority would use the cash on infrastructure, including associated ecological clearance works, which will help enable the early delivery of the supermarket, unlock immediate housing development for the first 200 homes in Middle Wichel and bring forward the district centre.

A Swindon Council spokesman said the authority expected to exchange contracts with Waitrose over the coming weeks.

Coun Wayne Crabbe (Con, Wroughton and Wichelstowe) said: “I think people in Wroughton quite look forward to the advent of the new Waitrose store there. I think Waitrose as a company are interesting in that they aren’t a usual sort of supermarket.

“They seem to have a very loyal client base who will travel for miles and miles to Waitrose. I know there will be people all over Swindon who will say I’m going to Wichelstowe to go to Waitrose, so I think that will be a great attraction.

“Because they’re a little bit up market and a little bit more specialised, personally I don’t think they will be a great threat to the Co-op in Wroughton or the Tesco.”

Terry King, chairman of the Front Garden Action Group, said the new district centre would build momentum for the development.

He said: “I’m sure it will help because potential developers will realise that the council are serious in getting this district centre set up and I’m sure it will tend to oil the wheels as it were. Developers are more likely to be interested if there’s a district centre already provided than if there’s nothing at all.”

But Coun Paul Hurst, the chairman of Wroughton Parish Council, said: “My parish council planning committee tried to object to the whole thing on the basis that what the borough are actually doing is creating an out-of-town shopping centre. Because surely they cannot justify it will be used by existing residents of Wichelstowe?

A Waitrose spokesman said: “It’s no secret that we're keen to open a shop in Swindon and we're looking at a number of opportunities including the one at Middle Wichel to achieve this.”