FIRST it was great crested newts and then it was an invasion of Japanese knotweed.

But the latest delay at the controversial Front Garden development is down to a flock of birds who have set up home in a farmhouse that was to be demolished.

Work on the 4,500-home Wichel-stowe Development had only just started when the finches and swallows were discovered nesting in the Westlecott Farmhouse and most of the other outhouses on the site last month.

An ecologist has been out to investigate and has told developers Taylor Woodrow Homes that nothing can be done to the building until the birds have flown the nest.

It means that demolition work has to be put back until late August at the earliest.

Terry King, chairman of the Front Garden Action Group, said that he noticed the nesting birds on May 21.

"It was me who alerted the Swindon and Devizes Wildlife group to the fact that there were birds nesting in the farm and they spoke to the developers and read them the Countryside Act," he said.

"I don't think it was a particularly well-known nesting site for the birds before this happened.

"But birds are no fools and as soon as they found it was empty they set up lodgings."

Mr King said it was great news for the campaigners.

"This is yet another delay and we are delighted about it," he said.

"There are just so many things against this development and we are pleased that work has had to be put off yet again.

"I'm a realist so understand that the development will go ahead, but all the setbacks might mean that they reconsider the size of it."

The nests will be monitored by a trained ecologist on a regular basis.

When they are satisfied the nests are clear the developers will be given the thumbs up to proceed with the work on the farmhouse.

Until then, a fence has been put up around the building to protect the site.

They are now focusing on the installation of infrastructure in the area, such as roads and sewers.

Spokesman for Taylor Woodrow, Charles St George said: "The demolition of Westlecott Farm was due to start soon.

"Ecologists recommend not disturbing nesting birds, so although we have permission we don't want to go ahead with it until the nesting season is over.

"That will probably be towards the end of the summer."