AFTER a series of setbacks on the New Eastern Villages development, a local firm believes their first holes in the ground could mark a fresh start for the project.

Swindon-based Capital Land Ltd acquired a controlling stake in the Great Stall area earlier this year and has now taken the first steps towards acquiring permission for up to 2,000 homes as well as a combined primary and secondary school on the site.

The firm’s vehicles moved on to ground site last week and the digging of trenches to allow archaeological and investigatory work to take place is well underway.

Chief Executive of Capital Land, Jeremy Francis, sees the start of work on the site as a sign of positive progress and the beginning of a more confident future for the development.

Mr Francis said: “We want to do this properly, that’s the commitment we’re making – we’re a local company, using local guys, with a long term interest in this project.

“We’re working closely with the local authority and making good progress.

“We’re talking around 2,000 homes and we agreed with the local authority last week that the school would be on our site too.

“I’m serious about providing something here that will last, something that will be here in 200 years’ time.”

With around 8,000 homes envisioned in total, the New Eastern Villages is one of the biggest green field developments of its type in the UK and forms a central part of the Swindon Local Plan.

However, a recent application for 2,800 homes submitted by another developer, Ainscough Strategic Land, was rejected by planning officers in a blow to progress on the project.

Capital Land hope to be in a position to submit an application for outline planning permission around the turn of the year.

They believe that by working in conjunction with representatives from Swindon Borough Council as they move forward, they can avoid some of the mistakes that have been made by other developers.

Mr Francis added: “This work was scheduled to start in October but it was brought forward, our engineers are saying we’re well ahead of schedule.

“There is no reason why we shouldn’t have an application ready at the end of this year to go on the desks of the local authority early next year.”

In an effort to see their vision through until the end of the project, the team behind Capital Land have also established their own house building company, Capital and Country Homes, which they hope will be able to take an active role in building a significant amount of the scheme.

Alongside the vision for a primary and secondary school, they have begun to paint an early picture of the signature house style they would like to see.

Part of that vision is the use of local materials, red brick from Marlborough, sandstone from the Cotswolds and Newbury flint, to create a style that blends local influences together in a fitting way.