AFTER years of waiting filled with frustrating delays, construction of the new Swindon Stadium is finally underway.

Diggers moved on to the site, in Abbeymeads, on Friday to begin the long-awaited building project. 

The stadium, set to cost in the region of £5 million, will transform the sports and entertainment offering of North Swindon - modernising a facility which while loved by fans, is clearly a relic of a past age. 

Home to Swindon Robins speedway club and Swindon’s greyhound racing community, the facility has been long overdue for an upgrade. 

One of the challenges faced by the team behind the project was how to achieve that without causing a significant disruption to the sporting calendar. 

In an innovative move, the construction of the buildings at the new facility will take place off site, with the various sections being transported and lifted in to place once they are ready. 

This approach means that the new stadium could be fully functional within just six months, by May 2017. 

Clarke Osborne, CEO of Gaming International, who own the stadium, said: “The carefully planned and long awaited construction of our brand new greyhound and speedway racecourse starts today. 

“Years of planning and hard work have finally come together and we break ground today.”

Mr Osborne paid tribute to the support the project has had from local MP Justin Tomlinson and the planning team at Swindon Borough Council

The new stadium has been some ten years in the making and it has taken a concerted effort to drive the final plans across the line, overcoming numerous obstacles along the way. 

Such was the demand for a resolution to the stadium saga that it became a political issue at the last general election, Conservative MP Justin Tomlinson came out on top in that contest and was on hand on Friday to witness the first day of construction. 

Mr Tomlinson said: “It is amazing to think that this project started back in 2006 and it has been ten years to get us to this day.

“There have been many obstacles to overcome on that journey and I commend Clarke and his team for their determination and sheer hard work. 

“This development is significant for the greyhound and speedway racing fans and secures a major new sporting and leisure facility for Swindon. 

“We still have a way to go but we are on the final lap and I am looking forward to the finishing line.”

The construction of the new stadium will be completed over two phases - the first phase will see a functioning facility in place by May 2017 and it is expected that greyhound racing, speedway, and the Blunsdon Market, will transfer during June 2017. 

Following that transfer, phase two will begin which will see the demolition of the existing stadium and the provision of the new car parks and entrance road.

That phase is expected to be completed by September 2017. 

Ensuring that the development is of benefit not only to sports fans but also to the wider community was at the heart of the discussions between the stadium team and planners at Swindon Borough Council. 

Coun Toby Elliott, the cabinet member with responsibility for planning, said: “My congratulations to all of the team in making this happen and my thanks to my colleagues at Swindon Borough Council who have continued to support this important project.

"It will provide new, modern, leisure facilities for the residents of Swindon.”

Below, political reporter Chris Humphreys speaks to North Swindon MP Justin Tomlinson and Coun Toby Elliott and stadium owners Clarke Osborne, of Gaming International.